In shock sentence: Bulgarian journalists fined for defamation

Two journalists in Bulgaria and a website were convicted of defamation and ordered to pay the equivalent of around US $ 35,000 for articles published in 2018 in what has been termed an unprecedented verdict. Reports from the Bulgarian service of RFE / RL.

The Sofia City Court (SCC) found that Boris Mitov, now a journalist for the Bulgarian service of RFE / RL, and Stoyana Georgieva had caused physical and mental agony in Svetlin Mihailov, a former chairman of the SCC, and ordered them and the published Website to the article four years ago to pay him 60,000 Bulgarian lev ($ 34,659) in damages.

In 2018 Mitov reported for the news website Mediapool Mihailov about the application to head the SCC, Bulgaria’s largest district court. Georgieva was the editor-in-chief of Mediapool at the time.

Four of these articles were examined by the court, and Judge Daniela Popova ruled on Jan. [Mihailov]. “

Mitov and Georgieva’s lawyers argued that the articles in question contained information about Mihailov, including questions about his sizable fortune and possessions that had appeared in other publications at the time and since then.

RFE / RL President Jamie Fly called the court’s decision “outrageous” and said it should intimidate some of Bulgaria’s top investigative journalists for reporting publicly known facts.

“The public has a right to accountability and intimidation tactics like these will not prevent RFE / RL from informing their audience about issues of public interest,” Fly said in a statement.

Popova did not specify in her judgment which excerpts from the articles in question she found “offensive, vulgar and cynical”.

Popova asked the two journalists and Mediapool to pay Mihailov 20,000 lev (11,553) each.

The lawyers of the two journalists and Mediapool have appealed the judgment, but a date for the hearing has not yet been set.

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