Only Civil Solidarity and Resistance Can Save Bulgaria

#WHO Fired Bulgarian TV Journalist Luba Kulezic

“GERB Empire” and Peevsky's "Long Hand" are gunning down the disobedient
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The political talk show of well-known Bulgarian journalist Luba Kulezic was suspended last week from the program lineup of Bulgarian International Television (BiT) and her contract was terminated prematurely. BiT’s official explanation is that Kulezic had broadcast insider media information. In addition, she had “given the impression” that the owner of the TV had demanded a change in behavior and in tone.

This is not the first TV channel to suspend Kulezic’s political talk show, to terminate her contract and to fire the journalist, who is known for not shying away from controversy and for her strong language against politicians.

In an exclusive interview with Bivol, Luba Kulezic talks about:

Her talk show suspended by BiT just before the live broadcast;

Politics and business;

Hidden properties;

Censorship imposed by the “GERB Empire” (GERB – the ruling Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria party – editor’s note)

Talking points in the media of controversial lawmaker and businessman Delyan Peevski;

The silence in BiT;

The frantic need for public resistance;

Hello, Mrs Kulezic! I think you can guess why we are calling you. What exactly is happening in this “stronghold” of allegedly free journalism – BiT? We do not care about the official version as much as your interpretation of the events?

This topic is extremely unpleasant for me, because it is exactly the “Barekov” model (Nikolay Barekov – TV journalist and director, turned politician and MEP – editor’s note). I have a contract with BiT through my company “Dom Production”. My show “Honestly Speaking” is an external production. Such agreements are not terminated in such manner because I am not an employee of this television but a business partner, a host and an author. And they are throwing me a piece of paper just before I am about to go live, telling me that there will be no broadcast. An hour before it was supposed to air!

Who suspended your show at the last minute before it was to be broadcast live? Where did this attack come from?

All this came from the Executive Director of the television Simona Angelova. In general, I was very at ease with my work, because until then there was no hint of interference and no interference in my work with this television. But obviously something has suddenly changed on the go. And we can have different theories. One theory is that the owners of BiT, brothers Pavel and Rumen Vulnevi, of whom Pavel is more involved with the television, come very rarely to Bulgaria (the brothers live in the United States – editor’s note). They do not know what is going on. They have put one person as executive, who obviously, they trust very much. They have given this person the task to attract TV commercials and advertisement. After all, this is a business and it should be profitable. But apparently the person in this position either cannot attract advertisers or is not doing it. And she begins to justify her inability with me and Sasho Dikov (Dikov is the BiT Program Director – editor’s note).

You and Sasho Dikov, is this the problem of BiT? What about you both?

That we are very extreme, very sharp-tongued, we had to be softer…

Wait a minute, have not they hired you exactly because of this? The TV owners know what both of you are doing, and so they have decided to work with you – to increase the media rating, to be watched, to offer something different from what is on the TV market.

I think the same! The disturbing thing is that it happened suddenly – the suspension of my show. Of course, I objected very strongly to the attempt to be given instructions beforehand. Very strongly. Now I realize that it could have been somewhat more contained, but I am fed up with such type of attempts to influence me and I can no longer tolerate them.

Politics and business in Bulgaria are blurred today. In this regard, when searching for advertisers, knowing that every single owner of a big company is connected with those in power, the ruling politicians can influence advertisers, right? They can hint to them not to advertise in certain media that are critical to the current rulers?

What you are saying is exactly what this lady (the BiT Executive Director Simona Angelova – editor’s note) was every so often instructing employees to do. And I asked her in an official letter to give me an answer – that because of my show and statements there is no advertisement on BiT. But I did not get a written answer. That is why I went to Pavel Vulnev, who, I swear, has never obstructed my work. I met him on his previous visit to Bulgaria and told him: “Mr. Vulnev, is it true that because of my shows, the advertisers refuse to work with BiT?” “Nonsense! Do not succumb to manipulations! “- this is how he answered me. And for this reason, I believe that the communication route is polluted by this lady (Simona Angelova – editor’s note), who comes from the Empire of GERB. She is their “man”. I do not even know her, do you understand?! No one in our business knows her. I am leaving the conclusions to you and your readers. My problem is that all of this fell on my head at the last moment, with some fictitious motivation. They cut off my head right before I was to go live on air.

Doesn’t this look like a mafia approach?

It does. She (Simona Angelova – editor’s note) ordered to immediately discontinue my and my team’s access to the television. To take away our access passes. Immediately! I understand them restricting my access, but why my team’s, the boys and girls I work with?!

Did you ask for an explanation from her?

In this case, I am a legal entity in the relations with the television and I have sent a formal invitation to them to negotiate with me – what will be the clauses to terminate our contract, so that it is lawful. I have not held official talks. None of these people (owners and Executive Director) has had an official talk with me. The owners are in the United States.

Why is a media harming its reputation like this? Can Simona Angelova unilaterally take such radical measures without this being approved by her direct superiors?

These questions should be addressed to the lady in question, to the company’s manager. I have no explanation for this absurdity. They have to explain to me what has happened without making up false reasons and giving me frivolous explanations.

Is BiT a free media? If journalists are being told to mind their strong language?

See, this happed in front of all hosts, all producers, some of whom are very young. This is a corrective measure, I think. The instruction to be more easygoing comes from her (Simona Angelova, editor’s note). It came from her mouth.

We are intrigued to know whether she speaks for #WHO? You touch on issues that are missing in other shows and televisions, and they are related to the people in power. You invite guests who are on other media’s black lists. You are talking about things we know, but there are very few journalists who dare to say them out loud on air.

I had a cart blanche to do it. Absolute freedom. However, something happened. Something has changed the direction. There is a sudden change of course or a sudden decision.

This action alters the entire television… It changes its policy. What are you going to do now?

I will take a break because I put lot in this battle, in this fight.

Does Bulgaria need journalism at all? The power is crushing it.

To practice dependent journalism makes no sense. Solidarity and resistance are needed, but they are nonexistent. Although I felt great support for myself from viewers; from colleagues – not so much. But really, it is the last straw that breaks the camel’s back. Journalists cannot be shot like that. Some in one way, others in a literal sense. I am already sick and tired of it! Every year, every other year my contracts are being terminated. This is absurd.

Knowing how the media are being run from operational hubs and how you speak openly about the “Model WHO”, do you presume that Delyan Peevsky’s long hand may have reached BiT now?

Yes, I do! Because, with such a fuzzy formulation of the official position to remove my show from air, any unofficial ones may be presumed. This is the same as the hidden owners of said Peevski. One version is officially presented, another ten are behind it. This accumulated experience – to conceal behind an official facade vague, hidden properties, connections and interests – is being transferred everywhere. Including in this kind of relationship. That is why I want a formal conversation with the BiT owners, official negotiations, formal commitment, formal argumentation of the termination of the contract. And I am of the opinion that the owner, Pavel Vulnev, has been misled. A media cannot be managed remotely. You have to be inside things. And when you assign other people to do it for you locally, such as the said director, to manage such a complex structure, you can expect any backstabbing. Such guidelines and talking points – to be more moderate, to have no political commitment, no external donors…

What does this imply?

Well, what does it imply? That is why I was furious and I said, “give the facts!”, because, as if I was listening to instructions from Peevski’s media. Because the only person who came out publically with a comment and said she would sue Barekov, it was me. He is spreading false information that Tsvetan Vassilev (former banker and majority shareholder in the collapsed Corporate Commercial Bank, now living in exile in Belgrade – editor’s note) is financing BiT trough me. I am suing Barrekov and paying for it from my own pocket.

Should not the television have done this?

Of course, this should have been done by BiT! To defend its own reputation; defend its journalists. All this had to be done by Simona Angelova, acting as the Executive Director of the television. She is the operational director of this media, she is dealing with the PR, the contracts, the personnel policy… Complete inactivity.

The media environment in Bulgaria is poisoned, the political environment is poisoned – what actions do you think are needed to change that?

There must be resistance! Solidarity and resistance – civil, professional. Without this happening, nothing will change in our country. There must be a battle. Not one-off march in front of Parliament, but demonstrating the existence of a community resistance. People have to unite, otherwise they are leaving.

What will happen if there is no resistance?

If there is no resistance, if the young do not wake up and say, “Lyuba, Asen (Lyuba Kulezic, Asen Yordanov, Director of Bivol – editor‘s note), we are going to follow you, walk with you!”, they will end up in the meat grinder…

The interview was taken by Stoyan Tonchev


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