September 23, 2004


Vienna, 23/09/2004


Simeon Saxecoburggotski

Prime Minister of the Republic of Bulgaria

Fax: +359 2 981 8070

Anton Stankov

Minister of Justice

Fax: +359 2 987 4058

Sofia, Bulgaria

Your Excellencies,

The Vienna-based South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists from South East Europe, and an affiliate of the International Press Institute (IPI), is deeply concerned about a recent court decision involving the Sofia-based daily newspaper Trud.

According to information before SEEMO, the journalist Svetlana Yordanova, editor-in-chief Tosho Toshev and publishing house “Media Holding” were fined 5,000 BGN (approximately 2,500 Euro) following a decision by the Sofia Court of Appeal (SCoA) on 27 July. The decision, which was only published on 7 September, stemmed from two articles from the year 1996 about a court case against the former Ministry of Interior official, Nikolai Todorov. In 1999, Todorov submitted an appeal to the Court asking for damages from Yordanova, Toshev and the publisher.

SEEMO would like to recall that the Sofia City Court (SCC) and the Sofia Court of Appeal (SCoA) rejected Todorov’s appeal during the court proceedings (2000-2001), stating that the Trud articles were based on “meticulous investigative journalism.” However, the Supreme Court of Cassation returned the case to the SCoA, which then found the newspaper and the journalists guilty of publishing “non-confirmed information.”

SEEMO regards the court’s decision as a clear threat to freedom of expression in Bulgaria, and asks Your Excellencies to do everything in your power to ensure that the decision is reversed. SEEMO would also like to remind Your Excellencies that freedom of expression and a safe working environment for journalists are basic principles of any democratic society.

We thank you for your attention.

Yours sincerely,

Oliver Vujovic

SEEMO Secretary General