As the coronavirus kept spreading pretty much everywhere in February, another virus was getting stronger and larger: the misinformation. Since the classic “Infektion” operation, there’s not much of a surprise anymore when it comes to pandemic diseases: somehow, the United States are behind that disease/virus/medical threat. So no exception this time either.
Pogled.info, for instance, published an analysis which kind of got the readers to think of the security level in the laboratories by wondering as follows: “Where did the coronavirus spread from? How safe are US bio laboratories in the post-Soviet countries?”. Answers were not in the menu, obviously.
Pogled.info also felt it was necessary to quote Radio China. The Chinese state owned media outlet is also wondering why the “US acts as if it would like to impede cooperation in combating the epidemic” and for what reason “the US way of dealing with things is also contrary to the recommendations of the World Health Organization”. Again, not many answers, not to mention that fact checking was not quite the strong point of the story.
Speculations that the starting point of the virus was not Wuhan were made public later in February. “Human-to-human transmission began as early as November or early December last year. Thus, the virus got into the Wuhan fish market from where it spread throughout the country. This is the conclusion of the scientists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, quoted by RIA Novosti. According to this version, the virus was transmitted to Wuhan by citizens who went to see their relatives in this city late last year”. Apparently, no conspiracy hint here.
But country leaders such as Iran’s Hassan Rouhani is not afraid of using words like “fear” and “spreading” in connection to the US, as reported by AFP, quoted by focus-news.net.
As for the European Union, not much to do about the virus, according to an analysis made by Reuters and quoted by Dnevnik: “The EU coordinates the actions of the 27 Member States, but there is little opportunity to counter epidemics because the countries have exclusive power in terms of health issues, travel restrictions and surveillance”. Reuters also summarized what the EU can and cannot do.
LEV – 1: EUR – 0
A topic that seems much more relevant for the Bulgarians is the upcoming (if at all) entrance of the country in the Eurozone and thus the dropping of the “lev”, the actual currency of the country, in favor of the “euro”, the Union’s currency. And the prospects do not seem to be good at all.
For the Bulgarian Academy for Sciences economist Grigor Sariyski, the currency switching will lead to a less democratic Bulgaria. “The people of Bulgaria will lose if the lev depreciates while waiting to enter the area of the Eurozone – we’re getting in quicksand, this is an opportunity for authoritarian decisions to be made”, Sariyski explained in an interview.
Financial expert and former Finance minister of Bulgaria Muravei Radev said in an interview for BTV that “it is a stupid moment to change the currency from Bulgarian lev to Euro because we will lose as a consequence of this decision: the lev is now more stable than the euro and should be traded for more – 1,7-1,8 leva for 1 euro”.
The father of the Bulgarian Currency Board (in the past twenty years Bulgaria’s macroeconomic indicators and public finance have been subject to the so-called currency board which was introduced on July 1, 1997; a currency board is a monetary authority which is required to maintain a fixed exchange rate with a given foreign currency, according to an older article published by BNR), Steve Hanke, told the BNR that the creation of the euro itself is a mistake and Bulgaria should not join the single European currency and should not enter the Eurozone. Hanke’s claims were also published by dnes.bg.
A few days later, Hanke also gave an interview to BTV and reiterated his earlier ideas. “Bulgaria will follow the destiny of Greece if the country adopts the euro. Once you enter the waiting area of the Eurozone, instability and speculations will arise”.
Тhe chief of the Institute for Market Economics, Krasen Stanchev, is not very optimistic either about the entrance in the Eurozone. “Joining the Eurozone will add new risks that need to be dealt with. When political risks accumulate both in the EU and in Bulgaria this is doubling the risk volume and this is a big mistake”, Stanchev explained in a interview to Dnevnik.
No surprise, then, when the Bulgarian cabinet decided to chane its approach in the matter. “Bulgaria announced it will slow the pace of the adoption of the euro”, Bloomberg reported, quoted by focus-news.net.
Russian interference across the Atlantic
US presidential elections to be held this year have been for the last years a constant source of revelations and arguments based on the alleged Russian meddling in the process. As the campaign is getting to the end of its first phase – the Democratic primaries result, speculations are more and more present.
For investor.bg, an analysis which bears the headline “The Separated States of America” says that “Donald Trump spoke to the nation and succeeded in deepening the already strong division in society – a speech of missed opportunities”.
The Russian newspaper Kommersant characterized the US elections as “presidential elections turning into extremist competition”, according to focus-news.net.
Pogled.info wonders – completely unbiased, of course – “Why do both Republicans and Democrants want to make Russia an enemy?”, in response to both parties calls to Russia to not interfere with the elctions.
The Russian Kommersant, quoted by focus-news.net, is clever though when switches from Russian intelligence to the US intelligence which, says the paper, “will interfere in US elections to help Donald Trump get re-elected for a second term”.
“In the 1960s and the 1970s illegal communist organizations claimed that the entire American state was obsessed with racism. Democratic candidates are claiming the same thing today”, said the former FBI Deputy Director Terry Turchie on Fox News. According to him, Soviet, Russian and Chinese special services have always relied on America to be destroyed by racial conflicts.
Focus-news.net republished the Russian media outlet “Vglyad” analysis on why the Russian meddling allegations are resurfacing now and the key word used is “paranoid”.
Finally, the same Bulgarian media outlet quoted the Russian Presidential Secretary Dmitry Peskov, who came out with an official statement: “Russia does not interfere in foreign affairs and is strongly against anyone being mistaken for Russian affairs”. Kanieț filma.
The designation which disappointed everyone
In February, the US ambassador to Bulgaria, Hero Mustafa, announced that a list with designated people was about to be made public by the State Department. Some days later, the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo revealed the first name: judge Andon Mitalov, who is being investigated for corruption.
“Laughter, surprise, disappointment and humiliation. This is what the decision of the US State Department – to ban the travel of a corrupt senior Bulgarian official overseas – caused in Bulgaria. It is about the judge at the Specialized Court Andon Mitalov”, wrote frognews.bg.
Apparently, there many people were unhappy with the designation. Which was not hard to see: even a sculptor, Velislav Minekov, wrote an official letter to the US ambassador to Bulgaria, Hero Mustafa, saying as follows: “The State Department’s decision to declare a person accused of corruption is very impressive. Unfortunately, I find the object of the indictment disappointing with the expectations of a conscious civil society. This unexpected and even accidental election implies a doubt in an otherwise expected political position worthy of respect in another form, but too inadequate with regard to our corruption in the country. Let me remind you that today my home country is Bulgaria, the country with the highest level of corruption in Europe and even the world. The consequence of the same corruption is the destruction of media freedom and probably your impressive misery and poverty. I would like to remind you again that such a policy contributes to the inclusion of Eurasian dictatorships, recognition of existing corruption as a necessary fact, support for existing managerial cynicism and violence against the freedom of the individual.
It would be too disappointing for the US government to support the systemic corruption-ruling government elite. A betrayal of our complicity in the EU and NATO is a similar choice.”
Others, though, had a different sort of objection. “Personally, I feel very insulted when a foreign country gets to say which judge in Bulgaria is corrupt”, said in an interview for BTV the judge Emil Dechev.
The grounds of the designation were also questioned. The journalist Luba Kulezich did it: “The US decision to ban Mitalov from entering the US is totally obscure”.
For duma.bg, the designation was a joke: while many Bulgarians expected some corrupt high official to be banned from entering the US, it all ended up with some low-profile judge.
For pogled.info, the issue here is the relationship between Bulgaria and the US: “Unfortunately, the Bulgarian government acts like a vassal administration, does not react and almost applauds the interference in the internal affairs of the state. Although we understand the US administration’s actions as defending the American interests in the Balkans, and in Bulgaria in particular, we do not share the manifestation of disrespect and brutality.”
In February, the authors of this report examined 17 Bulgarian media outlets, the most relevant in terms of readership.
Most of the articles (60) were provided by pogled.info, for the sixth month in a row.
Focus-news.net is ranked second (40 articles), for the sixth month in a row.
On the third place – duma.bg (8 articles).
79 of the collected articles could be classified as “neutral”. 14 of those are news, the other 65 – analyses.
84 articles are labeled “biased” (6 of them are news, 78 are analyses).
* The authors of this analysis/study divided the media articles into two categories (news and analysis), each classified as biased or neutral. A geographical criterion was also used to link the media articles to the EU and the US. According to this study, a piece of news is nothing more but a short article covering a fact or a statement whereas an “analysis” may be a column, an investigative piece or any other type of article that is based on several facts and statements that are premises for the conclusion that the author of the article wishes to make public. The neutral characteristic is attributed to those news and analyses that use actual quotes (and not made up or out of context ones), rely on fact checking and logical syllogisms, provide side relevant data (context) in order for the public to get the bigger picture. News and analyses are labelled as biased when, on the contrary, the journalist’s work is not compliant with all of the above: quotes are partial and/or manipulated/manipulative, there’s no vetting process, neutral context is not added (and when there’s some context provided, facts are selected to match the conclusion – which, in this sort of cases, is pre-set – and not the other way round).