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We address the UNACCEPTABLE CENSORSHIP AND THE LACK OF TRANSPARENCY with which the COUNCIL OF EUROPE (CoE) handled the video of the session on TRANSPARENCY – Lab 5 at the World Forum for Democracy, which took at the Council of Europe last Thursday, November 28th, in Strasbourg.

http://www.coe.int/web/world-forum-democracy/deferred-transmission/-/asset_publisher/sMxWO41JBwRq/content/lab-5

According to CoE official Claudia Luciani, Director of the Directorate Democratic Governance, the decision not to publish the video was made by CoE Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland because our presentation mentioned particular individuals.

We don’t have a written statement listing the exact individual or individuals we exposed, but we believe the reason for censoring the video was previously published documents that we showed during the session.

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One of them reveals connections to Organized Crime of Former Prime Minister of Bulgaria Boyko Borissov.

Another document shows evidence that Monica Yosiffova, spouse of the current President of the Party of European Socialists (PES), obtained a grant in the amount of 60 000 euros from the European Parliament for promoting the upcoming European elections.

Our full presentation is available here

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dLigWbpxhE0

The presentation was sent to the Moderator and the Rapporteur of LAB5 the day before. We got positive feedback both from Ms. Julia LAFFRANQUE, Estonia, Judge at the European Court of Human Rights, who was LAB5 Moderator and from Ms Ellen BERENDS, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Permanent Representative of the Netherlands to the Council of Europe, LAB5 Rapporteur.

We are also shocked that before disclosing the censorship, CoE officials BLUNTLY LIED that there was a “technical problem” with the video recording, preventing it from being uploaded.

These unacceptable actions are of special concern because la Raison d’Etre of the Council of Europe and of all of its institutions and officials is to protect Europeans in accordance to the treaty known as European Convention on Human Rights; to defend democracy and rule of law.

Therefore, the behavior of all Council of Europe officials should be exemplary when protection of human rights of any citizen is on the line, and none of them should ever act to restrict those fundamental rights in any way, from, or during any period of time.

What happened to the LAB 5 video?

Videos from all other discussion panels were uploaded on the forum’s page as early as the afternoon of Thursday November 28, 2013, except LAB 5, which was mysteriously absent.

On Friday morning (November 29, 2013) we inquired with the Head of Directorate Communication of the Council of Europe, Daniel Holtgen. At 10:23 am, we received a reply by an associate of the Directorate, Estelle Steiner, explaining that there was a “technical problem.” Around noon, Director Daniel Holtgen confirmed by telephone that there was a technical problem exactly with LAB 5 and that a formal response about the lack of the video was in the process of being prepared. This was also stated on the @WFDemocracy Twitter account:

https://twitter.com/WFDemocracy/status/406427951937236993

Trying to clarify what exact “technical problem” prevented the uploading of the video recording, we approached the “Multimedia” office. They explained how BOTH CAMCORDERS, for unknown reasons, produced corrupted files at the same time, and technicians were trying to retrieve them.

Shortly before 3:00 pm, Atanas Tchobanov and John Shipton talked with Ms. Claudia Luciani, Director of the Directorate Democratic Governance. She openly admitted that in fact a “technical problem” was not the reason for censoring the entire LAB 5.

Ms. Luciani stated bluntly the Secretary General of the Council of Europe has decided that the video should not be uploaded, because what has been said in this panel was against the rules of the Council and was creating legal problems as names of certain personalities have been mentioned.

So we learned that the “technical problem” was a lie and we were facing a censorship decision of the Secretary General.

After discussions and trough negotiations between the organizers and Bivol, the following compromise was reached: the video to be moderated in order to conceal the names of the affected persons both in the picture and in the sound; then the file to be uploaded on the official website of the forum. However, this could happen no earlier than Tuesday, according to the representative of the “Multimedia” department.

Meanwhile, we insisted that an explanation as to why the video from LAB 5 ended up missing to be posted on the website and for the “moderated” or “adjusted” video (the staff of the Council of Europe do not like the word “censorship”) to also include an explanation why parts of it are blurred (the same way faces of people in crime news are blurred) and why sound is absent at times or is replaced with beeps.

72 hours later, the video from LAB 5 continues to be missing and the site still does not display a message explaining the reasons.

http://www.coe.int/web/world-forum-democracy/deferred-transmission/-/asset_publisher/sMxWO41JBwRq/content/lab-5

We also have not received official confirmation in writing about the censorship decision and the agreement that was concluded. This is like been sentenced to censorship without a formal act of accusation.

Why censoring the LAB5 video?

The Balkanleaks presentation is available online here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dLigWbpxhE0

Our presentation affects global issues of access to information, security and protection against tracking people, who dare to reveal important facts to the public.

To illustrate our work we mentioned official documents obtained through FOIA requests or through leaks (la Raison d’Être of our project). One of the documents is exposing Former Prime Minister of Bulgaria Boyko Borissov of connections to Organized Crime.

Another document shows evidence that Monica Yosiffova, spouse of the current President of the Party of European Socialists (PES), obtained a grant in the amount of 60 000 euros from the European Parliament for promoting the upcoming European elections.

We believe that the mentioning of those individuals: Mr. Boyko Borissov and Ms. Monica Yosiffova led to the decision of the Secretary General to censorship the video.

By the way, Her Excellency, Ellen BERENDS, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Permanent Representative of the Netherlands to the Council of Europe, while reporting on the Plenary Session mentioned that our work has exposed the former Bulgarian Prime Minister. If we follow the CoE logic, Ms. Berend’s words should be “adjusted” as well.:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wHQC6IW29IQ

We think that we were and are subjected to UNACCEPTABLE CENSORSHIP and we are shocked by the BLUNT LIE about the so called “technical problem.”

The full story, with evidence, is published on our site here:

https://www.bivol.bg/balkanleaks-coe-censorship-english.html

Atanas Tchobanov & Assen Yordanov

Bivol.bg & Balkanleaks.eu

For comments please contact:

Atanas Tchobanov (Атанас Чобанов)
 editor in Bivol.bg (Биволъ)
mail: [email protected]
cell: +33 6 32 69 11 28
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