We publish a right of reply from Petar Punchev, candidate for Chair of the State Agency for Bulgarians Abroad (SABA). He confirms that the published diploma is authentic and states that he felt “no guilt and guilty conscience” due to his belonging to the secret services. We remind that Bivol follows the unwavering policy of categorical and unconditional lustration of all who belonged to the services of the criminal Communist regime.

Today, my day started interestingly – with a publication by the popular lately site Bivol, which claims to be the intransigent “fighter” and bearer of the truth of last resort. In it, people, who have never seen my face and never asked me about anything, are attacking me with much fervor and bile. Lately, everything is possible, so I was not surprised that much.

What was my surprise, however, when I read one large narrative, in which half the facts were downright wrong, and the other half – distorted beyond recognition.

I asked for basic ethics to be respected – the publication to be postponed until the author, if he/she is not a collective image, contacts me to do what everyone, even the most ignorant author does – ask for another viewpoint – that of the person affected by the publication.

Time ago, in the dark totalitarian years, it was an absolute rule. Today, it is, obviously, no longer. Or just the boy has not studied the craft and is trying to be journalist by trial and error?

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I know that once you are smeared with mud, it is hard to convince someone otherwise.

But I will try.

Yes, I graduated in Moscow in 1978. The “Lomonosov” University is a school with international prestige, and during my years there, the biggest stars of the late-Soviet dissidence came to teach optional classes, to show their movies and read their books. There was freedom and creativity that could hardly be expected in the midst of the Brezhnev era and bright times for us students!

The theme of my graduation thesis was indeed connected with the newspaper Red Laughter. In the publication of Bivol, this newspaper is presented as a body of the Soviet Communist Party; this nonsense has been corrected later. Moreover, it has been added, although the original photocopy of the diploma is clear enough to read…

That is to say, some treat from the author and Bivol.

I hate to say it, but this part of the publication carries the shame of complete ignorance regarding the history of Bulgarian journalism. The newspaper Red Laughter was really a leftist edition where authors included the great poet Hristo Smirnenski in close creative cooperation with titans like Angel Karaliychev and Assen Razcvetnikov, artists Stoyan Venev and Alexander Zhendov… The biggest masters of the pen and caricature left in it their best works – until 1923… Anyway. I would have seen this as mere illiteracy, if it wasn’t for prejudiced interpretation of this fact.

Bivol is asking if mine was a legal diploma. Oh yeah, probably at least 30 of the biggest names in journalism in the country have obtained it and use it until today. It is valid for NATO; it is even quite highly valued there, and everywhere…

Yes, I was in the Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense (RUMNO). For seven months.

But Bivol’s story claims that I became Assistant Head of Department (of which dear author?), are the epitome of fiction. I was serving my regular military draft in Elhovo, as platoon intelligence officer (004 VDC) when I was invited to continue in the School of Military Intelligence in Sofia. Initially I refused, insisting that in this life I only wanted to be a journalist. They told me that this is what I will be, but undercover, in a Balkan country. I do not feel guilty or have guilty conscience over this fact. I would work in a Balkan country for Bulgarian military security today. They transferred me to the School in September, and as a rookie I stayed there until May, when I found the strength and courage to leave RUMNO. It cost me a series of sanctions, unemployment and a ban on contacts with foreigners and trips abroad, ostensibly for five, but actually for seven years. I’m not complaining, it was calculated. But I did not want to spit on my own conviction that I did not want to do this work over some serious internal personal considerations.

This ridiculous publication claims that when I was 24-year-old, I have been already Head of Department and part of the secret services. At the age of 24, for almost a year by then, I had left the Intelligence Directorate HQ and wandered unemployed with an excellent diploma. I applied, despite my many serious publications and excellent education, with the listening service of the Bulgarian State Radio, where we worked in shifts, preparing the bulletins for the newscasters. There was no lower level in the Radio and I started right from there.

The fact that I graduated with excellent grades is discussed, to say the least, in an unfriendly manner. Yes, this is true. I have excellent grades in almost all subjects, not just the ideological ones, in which I had never been particularly interested. But I studied, I read, I knew. This is not a crime. My generation perceives this as a plus, not a minus.

Arrogant illiteracy is fashionable today.

The author speaks with aplomb about a “career” in the special services, about some “re-recruitment” by Petko Sertov. And does not know of at least one reason it has not been possible. When I left the Intelligence Directorate HQ, among the numerous sanctions, there was one more particular – “ban for life to serve in intelligence and counterintelligence services of People’s Republic of Bulgaria”. Even if I wanted to, I could not.

The case with Sertov is described in the press, there is a film on this subject, made by maybe the only journalist in the country who bothered to read the files of her colleagues, and not arbitrarily conduct some “exercises”, like the author of Bivol’s publication. Write in Google “Peter Punchev – a matter of belonging” and you can watch it, or at least read something.

Petko and I lived in the same apartment building, once he asked me if, in my opinion, an employee of a Western embassy is performing reconnaissance tasks in our country. I saw her from time to time; we talked freely about many things, so I said convinced that she had not shown any interest in “sensitive issues” and was not a spy… And then, in the mid-1980s, there were many of them, even the so-called. Revival Process was a true land mine… That was it. I have not given consent; I did not sign anything; I have been registered, if one is to believe PS, by his supervisor almost forcibly. I am not the one to say how it happened. But working for two, literally competing services, in the presence of an explicit ban for life was not possible. And it never happened.

The issue of the “big media owner” is a long story. The most important thing to know is that we started the first private radio station with equipment borrowed from Pezzi the Cricket, (musician from the popular Bulgarian rock band The Crickets – editor’s note), God rest his soul, and with 15 CDs. There are dozens of witnesses, some of them are today the stars of the Bulgarian radio and television journalism, ask them! Six months later, not a mysterious millionaire from DS, but the most successful British radio company then – GWR – came, did the so-called due-diligence, this is to say it traced every lev (and they were not much!), signed a partnership contract with us, and bought 48% of the shares for 103 thousand dollars. Of which we did not take even one lev, but invested everything in development and modernization.

Thanks to our partnership, with hard work and courage, in the next 15 years, by introducing the highest European standards in the program, business and accounting activities, we achieved truly outstanding results.

There are many things that the author would learn if he/she had called as his/her, and our common profession requires. Hopefully, he/she will learn from this experience and will review the basic moral and ethical expectations for the journalist, with the tendency to follow them in the future.

As for the topic of my views regarding the Bulgarians in Ukraine, Moldova, Russia and Serbia, and even in other lands, he/she could have looked into my posts on social networks, if not in my very concept for competition in the SABA. This, any way one looks at it, is mandatory if one is to write about the candidates in the competition. He/she would then understand that there is no “Trojan Horse”, but a patriot who believes that it is high time to bring these people back to their homeland, as they are far more moral, more hardworking and patriotic then us who live in the country.

But if the author has written the publication, it means this is what “should have been done”. The question is – who is it serving?

 

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