A week after the Financial Supervision Commission (FSC) imposed on the company-publisher of Capital record fines for publications, it turned out now that the prosecution and the central bank (Bulgarian National Bank, BNB) have also taken action against the newspaper. Acting on a signal of the banking supervision, the Public Prosecution has issued an order to the Interior Ministry to investigate.
The signal has been submitted by Nelly Kordovska, Head of BNB Banking Supervision, at the end of September. In her letter, addressed to public prosecutor Hristo Dinev, she re-sent a short signal that was received at BNB via email. Kordovska used the occasion to present her views on the publications in Capital and the online Dnevnik, which allegedly have disclosed official and banking secrets.
One of the said articles is “The Myth”, Open the Healthy Corporate Commercial Bank CCB” in which we presented the conclusions of the independent auditors engaged to establish the actual state of CCB. With a controversial decision, BNB decided then to keep the audit reports secret, but our journalists found them. In her letter, Nelly Kordovska alleges that a bank secret has been disclosed. “In addition to the above, it should be kept in mind that the publications of Capital and Dnevnik, belonging to the Economedia group, have repeatedly published information relating to individual data of depositors and borrowers in CCB, which also raises the question of potential breach of art. 284 and art. 360 of the Penal Code, in accessing and disclosing such information,” the BNB employee further writes.
The crimes Kordovska is referring to are based on “an employee, who in the detriment of the State, an establishment, an organization or private person tells to another or publishes information that is entrusted or accessible to him/her through his office duties and who knows that this information is officially secret” and the one “who discloses information of military, economic or other nature that does not represent State secret, but whose disclosure is prohibited by law, order or other administrative directive, shall be punished with imprisonment of up to one year or with probation”. They respectively call for up to two and one year in prison. The Head of “Banking Supervision” also says in her signal that “the society is particularly sensitive to any undue disseminated information on the situation in the placed-under-special-supervision CCB, as well as in other banks, which could lean towards conclusions of financial instability”.
This is yet another attempt of State institutions to impose censorship on a topic that has been of serious interest of Bulgarian society in the last year. BNB’s grounds, which have been uncritically accepted by the Prosecution, are that responsibility should be sought not from those who failed to protect banking information, but from journalists who have the duty to inform the public on important subjects.
Three days after receiving BNB’s signal, Sofia City Prosecutor Hristo Dinev issued a resolution to attach it to the investigation in the case CCB. It is not clear on whose order, but the file went to the Sofia Regional Prosecutor’s Office. In early November, prosecutor Bogdan Angelov from the Sofia Regional Prosecutor’s Office estimated that BNB’s signal had sufficient grounds to instruct the Sofia Directorate of the Interior to conduct a probe.
Prosecutor Angelov has ordered questioning of the author of the signal – Nelly Kordovska – in which she must indicate which of the cited publications is a professional secret; how she learned about the article, as well as the persons who had access to the information that has been presented in the publication. The magistrate directed the Ministry of Interior to require “a written statement of the respective persons from Capital newspaper regarding the article published in the media and cited in the signal of BNB.”
“I cannot provide information at this time. There is an ongoing probe,” said prosecutor Bogdan Angelov.
A prosecutor, speaking off-the-record, told Capital that a signal does not at all mean that a probe should be ordered. “The signal claims that the publications have disclosed classified information. See the provisions of the Penal Code and you will find out whether it is at all possible for the publications, described in the signal, to constitute such crimes. These things are taught in the fourth year of law school. There is either a gap in knowledge or intentional acts.”
“Institutions, regulators, agencies that do not have expertise are dealing with freedom of expression, and with intervention in the media,” said recently Prof. Nelly Ognyanova.
This is not the first case in which prosecutors have ordered an investigation in Capital over publications. Last August, after being approached with a signal from the associated with lawmaker Deliyan Peevski company Vodstroy 98, the Regional Prosecutor’s Office instructed the Sofia Directorate of the Interior to question journalists Nikolay Stoyanov and Alexei Lazarov. After a protest, staged by journalists and citizens in front of the main courthouse in Sofia, the prosecution closed the investigation.
From Capital newspaper. The headlines have been changed by Bivol’s editorial office.
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