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February 25 2013

Bulgarian Government Quits, But Protests Continue

On Sunday, Feb. 24, tens of thousands of Bulgarians protested against corruption, high utility bills and poverty. The coastal city of Varna was declared the Protest Capital: over 40,000 people turned up for the Sunday's rally there. Some 15,000 people protested in Plovdiv. While it is difficult to determine the exact number of the Feb. 24 protesters, activist sources say there were more than 200,000 of them nationwide.

In Sofia, the slogans included: “Let's Set the Monopolies on Fire!”; “Balkans, wake up! For a real democracy!”; “End to illusions, civil action every day!”; “We, Bulgarians, Turks, Roma, Armenians – we are all #Bulgaria-n citizens! We must stand up against political manipulation!”

The Feb. 24 protest in Sofia. Photo by Ruslan Trad.

The Feb. 24 protest in Sofia. Photo by Ruslan Trad.

Here's a video from the protest in Sofia, filmed by the author of this post:

The protest in Sofia coincided with the enthronement ceremony for Neofit, the newly-elected Patriarch of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church; the city was paralyzed, no public transport, except for the metro, was running. Minutes after he was officially enthroned, Patriarch Neofit vowed to pray for peace and unity of the Bulgarian people. This gesture of support for the protesters was well-received by them, while President Rosen Pleveliev, who addressed the crowd in Sofia, was booed.

The protesters called political parties not to manipulate or get involved in the protests. At the rally in Veliko Tarnovo, they even chased some political representatives away [bg; video]. Stanislava Stefanova wrote [bg]:

Don't they understand that there is no place for them at the protest of the people???? Isn't it clear enough that we don't want them???

Following the surprise resignation of Boyko Borisov‘s government on Feb. 20, which came after an earlier protest turned violent, activists of the protest movement held a meeting in the city of Sliven and agreed on a list of demands: not to adjourn the Parliament; the President should appoint experts to the new government, instead of making it a caretaker one; to draft a Civil Participation Bill providing a 50% civil quota in all institutions; to return 51% of the energy sector shares to the State; to close the Bulgarian Energy Holding, BEH, for draining the energy sector; to summon the Grand National Assembly, establishing a procedure to recall MPs.

Lada Dimitrova wrote [bg] in a comment at the Feb. 24 protest photo gallery on the “Saprotiva” (“Resistance”) page:

I'm not concerned with who will be the leader, it is important for me to live in dignity!

February 20 2013

New e-Journal Highlights Balkan History and Archaeology

The inaugural issue of Haemus Journal, an academic e-journal devoted to the history and archaeology of the Balkan Peninsula, also covering a wide range of related interdisciplinary topics, was published recently. It follows the principles of Free and Open Access and publishes its content under a Creative Commons license.

Haemus-journal-1-2012-cover

Haemus journal Vol.1 (2012)
http://haemus.mk

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Bulgarian Police Attack Anti-Government Protesters

Screen shot 2013-02-20 at 5.31.18 am

GV Author Ruslan Trad has posted a video from the Feb. 19 anti-government protest in Sofia, Bulgaria:

There were provocations and police violence. Police beating everyone. They did not want to arrest provocateurs, and people shouting, “These are provocateurs,” but police beat anyone on the street. Attack of the police was surprising – my phone fell to the ground – after 1:59 recording is black because the camera is watching the asphalt. Many people were on the ground – even women.

February 18 2013

High Energy Bills Keep Bulgarians Protesting

On Sunday, February 17, tens of thousands of people in Bulgaria's capital Sofia and other cities continued to protest against high electricity and heating bills, and against the monopoly of energy distribution companiesChCEZ, EVN, and Energo-Pro. The protesters are demanding the nationalization of Bulgaria's three power utilities – CEZ, EVN, and Energo-Pro, with the National Electric Company NEK.

More than 20,000 people showed up for the protest in Varna, 10,000 in Plovdiv, 6,000 in Sofia, 5,000 in Blagoevgrad. Four people were detained as protesters in downtown Sofia clashed with police who tried to cut the rally heading for the headquarters of power utility company CEZ.

The protesters want their demands met next week – and, if this does not happen, they are demanding the resignation of the Prime Minister and the President. Although nationalist parties tried to gain political advantage, protesters stood up against such manipulation, shouting “No parties!”

YouTube user iasssen posted this video of the Sofia protest (shot by SkyMedia-bg.com from the air using a quadcopter, sound recorded separately down on the ground). Another HD video from the Sofia protest was posted by user MickeyMouseFrance:

Bulgarian blogger Kostadin Kostadinov posted an entry titled “Where to after the revolt?”[bg]:

Around 100,000 people protested today across the country. The protests, which began as a reaction against the pompous arrogant and brusque bills, become more social and political. People chanted “Boyko [Boyko Borisov, Bulgarian PM] out” and “Down with [GERB, the ruling party],” and then wondered who would follow them. [...] What those 100,000, many of them young people, would do in the elections this summer is extremely important. Obviously, they have the potential to awake the sleeping Bulgaria and to make Bulgarians believe in themselves and change their country. On the other hand, they do not trust anyone, and they have a good reason.

Bulgarian blogger Sabina Panayotova expressed her pessimism about the Feb. 17 protests [bg]:

These people are not those people.
- People in [the summer 2012 protests of Eagle Bridge] are not those of today. The people today were sad, desperate and gray.
- Protests today were like [the anti-communist protests of 1989], except that afterwards they will likely bring communists back to power.
- Whatever happens after these protests will not be good. In the best case, it will remain as it is.

Taralezh (“Hedgehog”) blog commented on the missing responses from the ruling party and ministries:

The first men of the country ran away from the protests and the people's “love.” While hundreds of thousands chanted in the streets of 35 cities in the country, none of the leaders thought of returning to Sofia to stand in front of the citizens as [real] men.

D-r Beloliki blog posted a collection of photos of the Feb. 17 protests across Bulgaria. Dimi Lazhov posted photos from the northwestern city of Vratza where people protesting against the monopoly and the new “rain tax.” Facebook page Saprotiva (“Resistance”) has photos from the nationwide demonstrations as well, and there is also a Storify collection with reactions, here.

Bulgarian journalist Adelina Martini tweeted:

Thousands protest in various cities in #Bulgaria against high electricity prices, shouting “mafia” and “resignation”, local media report

Another Bulgarian journalist, Mariya Petkova, who is based in Cairo, tweeted about the protests, too:

Hundreds of thousands are out in the streets across #Bulgaria protesting private monopolies of utilities and economic hardship!!!

January 22 2013

“Bulgaria's Image Stands to Lose” Due to Attack on Politician

On January 19, 2013, a gunman attacked Ahmed Dogan, the founder of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF), described by some politicians as Bulgaria's “Turkish party,” as he was delivering a speech at a televised party conference in Sofia. No shots were fired, and the gunman was beaten by MRF members, while security guards acted slowly.

In 1985, Dogan was among the founders of the National Freedom Movement, which reacted against the “Process of Rebirth” (Възродителен процес), a campaign by the Bulgarian Communist Party to assimilate the Turkish minority by forcing the Pomaks and Bulgarian Turks to adopt Slavic-sounding names. Over 300,000 families were forced to leave Bulgaria back then. There are 67,000 Pomaks in Bulgaria now, and the Turkish minority is the country's largest ethnic minority.

The attacker, Oktay Enimehmedov, is an ethnic Turk who purchased a gas gun a few days earlier. Later it became known that he had written a suicide note to his mother, in which he suggested that he might be killed. Enimehmedov's friends told the media he was a good man who never caused problems to others. However, the attacker is well-known to the police in the coastal city of Burgas as a perpetrator of minor crimes.

After the incident, Dogan resigned as MRF's leader, the post he had held since 1990.

A screenshot of the footage of the Jan. 19 televised attack on Ahmed Dogan.

The assassination attempt has provoked many reactions by Bulgarian politicians and netizens - and some of them seem convinced that the attack was staged.

A leftist journalist, Alexander Simov, wrote this [bg] on his blog:

I'm not sure if people realize just how dangerous what happened at the MRF conference really was.

[…]

Everything in Bulgaria is a big stage play - a stage play of democracy, of political parties, of normalization and decency.

[…]

We've witnessed an assassination attempt on an acting Bulgarian politician, for the first time since the dreadful date of October 2, 1996, when the ex-Prime Minister [Andrey Lukanov] was shot dead in front of his home. This raises the question of whether these past 17 years of transition have actually happened at all. The murder in 1996 and the assassination attempt today will surely be linked in all political analyses, which demonstrates in practice how the transition is still stuck at its starting point.

[…]

Some people actually felt sympathy towards the (would-be) killer – it's as if they felt he was pointing a gun at the transition itself. […]

Simov continues, asking this:

Where was the Interior Minister this whole time? Why did it take so long for him to make a statement? Why didn't he make one immediately? Was the National Service for Protection asleep this whole time? Why did they mix up their stories so badly? How was someone with a criminal record ever allowed to come up on the stage?”

Bulgarian blogger Konstantin Pavlov (@Komitata) wrote [bg] on his blog:

Who benefits and who loses from the whole ordeal?

The MRF will benefit – its hundreds of thousands of supporters will once again feel threatened and under siege, and the party ranks will be brought into line for the upcoming elections. It won't be a surprise if we see a record turnout.

The [far-right Attack Party] and similar formations will benefit, because they now have new arguments against the vicious nature of the MRF and the degradation of its leadership.

The police state, the cops and similar political-economic elements will benefit as well.

The biggest loser in all of this is the National Service for Protection and the political leadership of the country, which has shown its full inadequacy in the tasks it should perform.

Nelly Alexieva commented [bg] on the effect the attack might have on Bulgaria's image:

No one bothered to ask what motives this young man would have to shoot Dogan. That's because no one believed his stated motives to begin with. The performance was all too theatrical. But it did draw public attention to the MRF and its Conference.

Comments and opinions have been pouring all day on who benefits from this stage play.

One thing is for certain – Bulgaria's image stands to lose from all this.

The author of “Rusensko vareno” blog described [bg] what happened as “circus”:

[…]

1. A few days ago Dogan declares that people are to expect big surprises on Saturday, i.e. today.
2. On Saturday, i.e. today, a would-be punk-thug stages an assassination attempt on Dogan.
3. Ahmed Dogan resigns.
4. [Lyutvi Mestan] is elected chairman of the MRF with 100% of the votes.
5. Dogan is appointed honorary president of the party for life.

Alexander Lyutov wrote [bg] on his blog:

Much like the Gulf War, we saw a real action movie unfold before our eye, shot by a camera that no one seemed to get in the way of, not even accidentally, as security guards, but mainly MRF delegates were starting to maul the assailant. […] The European observers at the MRF conference evidently couldn't stand the barbaric display and seemed to have lost their sound and picture.

It's clear that the upcoming [Jan. 27 referendum on building a new nuclear power plant] is no longer on our minds.

User Stoyan wrote this [bg] on The Other Truth blog:

[…] It's my opinion, and a lot of people seem to share it, that the idea behind this staged attack was to bring the ranks of the party into line. If you remember, the MRF lost many municipalities in the last elections, as a big portion of their supporters broke away from the party. Clearly, the season of negative campaigning starts today. MRF delegates were shouting for the resignation of [Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov], and other things of that kind. In other words, the MRF will be blaming the Prime Minister for what happened, he in turn will be blaming [Sergei Stanishev, the leader of the socialists], perhaps Stanishev will start blaming Dogan, and so on. […]

On Twitter, some of the reactions were as merciless.

@therealgenadi wrote [bg]:

the next assassination attempt against Dogan will be more serious - with a Star Wars sword bought at a toy store.

@DidiGK wrote [bg]:

I bet Dogan has organized this attack against himself. Like Berlusconi. Garbage next to garbage.

@asengenov wrote [bg]:

The janissaries who kicked and jumped on the head of Dogan's “attacker” must to be sued for moderate and severe injuries and attempted murder.

Jonathan Allen, the British Ambassador to Bulgaria, tweeted this comment [bg] about the attack on Dogan:

I hear that someone has attacked Mr. Dogan. I hope he feels okay. Democracy means disputes, but with words and ideas.

December 14 2012

Inappropriate Analogy for Greece-Macedonia Name Dispute

Responding to an assertion by Gerald Knaus…

Athens and Skopje face a [prisoner's dilemma]: if neither side believes that a solution is possible, and acts on this, both will lose.

Zarko Trajanoski wrote on Facebook:

However, the analogy with “prisoner's dilemma” is not only false, but very offensive: Athens is not a prisoner, but a prison guard and perhaps a political torturer in this case. And the outcome of this political torture, aided by Sofia as well, is the rise of the Macedonian ethno-nationalism and the decline of the liberalism, democracy and human rights.

He later provided an elaborate explanation in a blog post [mk].

December 04 2012

Bulgarian Activist on Hunger Strike Against State Monopoly

On Dec. 1, Chavdar Yanev set up a tent in front of the Bulgarian Supreme Judicial Council in Sofia and went on hunger strike to protest a judicial system that allows cases filed by individuals against state institutions to continue for years. Or even decades: Yanev and his wife, Latinka Georgieva, have been in a legal battle against Toplofikatsiya [bg], a state monopoly that provides heating to the country's residents, for nearly 12 years [bg].

A flashmob in solidarity with Yanev, organized via Facebook group “We are against high prices for electricity” [bg] (more than 3,000 members), is scheduled for Dec. 4.

This poster, urging people to come to a flashmob to support Chavdar Yanev, has been shared by 2,060 Facebook users.

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November 25 2012

Bulgaria: The Rise of Homo domaticus

On November 24, people gathered in front of the Bulgarian Parliament in the capital city of Sofia, thus officializing what has become known as the ‘Tomato Revolution.'

Tomato threat over the Parliament

The logo of the Tomato Revolution Facebook event. Screenshot adapted by the author

The logo of the Tomato Revolution Facebook event. Screenshot adapted by the author.

On November 9, the independent media outlet OFFNews published photos [bg] of the Parliament building smudged with tomato sauce. It is unclear who did it and why.

On November 14, Nikolay Kolev, aka Bossiya (The Barefoot), published an open letter [bg] on his blog, openly threatening to throw tomatoes at the government buildings, because he held the Bulgarian officials responsible for the rampant corruption in the country. The letter was sent to the Parliament, the President, the Prime Minister, the Supreme Judicial Council, the Bulgarian National Television and the Bulgarian National Radio. Bossiya wrote:

Всички вие ръководите институции, които са пряко свързани със състоянието на страната ни за последните години. Затова и смятам, че вие сте основни виновници за ужасното състояние на страната и обществото.В страната цари корупция, престъпност, безотговорност, информационна мъгла, слугинаж, деморализация. Празните приказки и театрални пози и монолози ежедневно замъгляват съзнанието и надеждите на обществото като цяло, както и на всеки един български гражданин отделно.

All of you manage institutions that are directly responsible for the condition our country has been in in the recent years. That's why I think you are the main culprits of the terrible state of the country and the society. Corruption, crime, irresponsibility, information fog, servant behaviour and demoralization reign the country. Fudge as well as theatrical poses and monologues daily cloud the minds and hopes of the society as a whole and of each Bulgarian citizen individually.

In his open letter, Bossiya also exposed the details of his peaceful symbolic protest:

На 20 ноември /вторник/ ще закупя от пазара 6 /шест/ развалени домата и ще ги разпределя по един за шестте институции, към които съм се обърнал. В 10 ч ще бъда пред Народното събрание, където ще хвърля един домат по фасадата, с което ще изразя протеста си срещу липсата на ориентация, професионализъм и патриотизъм при изготвяне на законите. Ще запратя домата протестирайки срещу лошите текстове на законите, носещи само нещастия на обществото и отделния български гражданин. Законът трябва да бъде обществено полезен, а не изработен срещу човека.

След това ще отида пред президентството и ще запратя по фасадата му следващия домат. Той ще бъде срещу нищоправенето от страна на президентската институция, наведената поза при среща с представители на великите сили и назначението на отрепки за дипломати. Срещу безкритичното отношение при подписването на укази за влизането на законите в сила.

Третият домат ще бъде хвърлен срещу сградата на МС заради цялостната му политика и действията му срещу обществото и националните интереси.

Четвъртият домат ще бъде хвърлен от мен срещу съдебната палата. За моите съотечественици не е необходимо да обяснявам защо.

Петият и шестият домат ще хвърля по БНТ и БНР поради това, че с нашите пари те обслужват една малка шайка от политически престъпници и мафиоти.

On November 20 (Tuesday), I will buy from the supermarket 6 (six) rotten tomatoes and distribute them to one of the six institutions which I addressed. At 10 am, I will be in front of the Parliament, and I will throw a tomato at its facade in protest against the lack of orientation, professionalism and patriotism in lawmaking. I will do so to protest low-quality law texts bringing only misfortunes to the society and the Bulgarian citizen. The law should be socially useful, not crafted against the people.

Then I will go to the Presidential palace and hurl the next tomato at its facade. It will be against the consistent inaction by the presidential institution, its stooped posture while meeting with international representatives and the appointment of lowlives as diplomats. [I will throw it] against the uncritical attitude in signing the decrees of laws coming into force.

The third tomato will be thrown in front of the Prime Minister's HQs for overall policies and actions against the society and national interests.

The fourth tomato will be thrown against the Courthouse. I don't need to explain why to my compatriots.

The fifth and the sixth tomatoes will be thrown against the Bulgarian National Television and the Bulgarian National Radio because they serve a small bunch of political criminals and gangsters on our money.

On Tuesday, November 20, Bossiya was arrested [bg] in front of the Parliament, where reportedly 40 policemen were deployed waiting for him to show up. Reactions were contrasted, as some news outlets were dismissing his action as “a salad” [bg], while others were sidelining [bg] with his action. Political stances were equally distinct, and netizens reflected these positions on Twitter as well:

@VeselaAngelova: Добре де, ако са нужни 40 полицаи, за да арестуват човек с домат, за човек с патлангач сигурно ще викаме НАТО или нещо такова.

Oh well, if 40 policemen are needed to arrest a single man with a tomato, for a man with an aubergine, we'll need to call NATO or other suchlike.

 

@SlaviVIP: Некъв мизерник хвърлил домат по парламента днес и вече е “светец”, ето заради такива боклуци държавата е на този хал. А този е за Белене!

Some bonker threw a tomato at the Parliament today and is now a 'saint,' it's because of such morons that our country is in this situation.

Reacting to the disproportianate participation of 40 special forces policemen to arrest a single man, netizens joke:

@benkovski: @tourbg @cipisec Али Домат и 40 разбойници

Ali Tomato and the 40 thieves [An allusion to “Ali Baba and the 40 thieves,” a popular classic story]

@gtsmilev: @CapitalBg Стола на парламента ще се казва “Дон Домат”

The Parliament's canteen will be named “Don Tomato”

Later on, the media announced that Bossiya was charged with “hooliganism” and risked up to two years in jail. A Facebook group [bg] “Tomatina — The Tomato Revolution” was created, in support of Bossiya and calling for a demonstration and symbolic tomato throwing at the Parliament on November 24.

“Each tomato — a bomb against the rulers”

The initiative gained momentum and broad support [bg], with more than 1,000 people subscribing to attend. The media reported [bg] that vegetable sellers from Sofia's most popular supermarket refused to make people pay for tomatoes if those were to be used at the protest.

"Wake up, the mafia rules us!" A banner from the demo. Image by Ruslan Trad (CC-by-SA 3.0)

“Wake up, the mafia rules us!” A banner from the demo. Image by Ruslan Trad (CC-by-SA 3.0)

The November 24 protest was live-streamed by Assen Guenov, a contributor to the independent Open Government initiative. Some of the participants tweeted:

@reguligence: Полицейското присъствие около НС е стабилно. #TomatoRevolution

Police presence around the Parliament is robust #TomatoRevolution

@GerganaBoteva: По канал 3 казаха, че има около 300-400 човека #TomatoRevolution

Channel 3 announced that 300-400 people are attending. #TomatoRevolution [Channel 3 is an independent TV channel which was also live-streaming the protest]

Twitter user @ju joked echoing the infamous outcry in some media that called to limit the influence of the social media in the country:

@ju: Банват думата “домат” от Facebook за България

The word “tomato” is banned on Facebook in Bulgaria

Global Voices Author Ruslan Trad has published a few photos from the protest, and I have curated a Storify [bg, en] with more background information.

November 23 2012

Candles Lit for Gaza in Bulgaria's Capital

About 100 people gathered in Sofia's central square to show their support for the victims of Israel's recent Operation Pillar of Defense in the Gaza Strip. Facebook page “Together for Palestine” [bg] has this photo of commemorative candles lit in Bulgaria's capital; another page, “Bulgaria supports Palestinian independence in the UN” [bg], has more updates and photos. A few pro- and anti-Assad Syrians were seen arguing with each other during this solidarity gathering:

Photo by Ruslan Trad.

November 07 2012

Massive Anonymous Rally in Bulgaria's Capital Ends in Arrests

On Nov. 5, some 1,500 people took part in an anti-government rally in Sofia, organized by the Bulgarian section [bg] of the Anonymous. There were other, smaller, protests in other Bulgarian cities and towns. The rallies were part of the worldwide Global Day of Protest declared by the Anonymous. The Sofia protest resulted in a broken police cabin near the Parliament - and in arrests [video, bg].

November 04 2012

Ink Duel: Bulgarian Artists vs Egyptian Artist in London

Studio 75, a London-based “100% independent, not part of any school, trend, fashion or directive” artist space is hosting ‘The Orientophobia Sessions' this weekend. In the program of the Out Of The Deep East, Bulgarian artists Krum and Desi engage into an ink duel with Egyptian artist Naz:

A screenshot of Studio75's blog

A screenshot of Studio75's blog

(more…)

September 11 2012

Kosovo: Prizren Comic Book & Cartoon Festival

Poster announcing Vesna Nichevska-Saravinova's participation at 8th Comic Book & Cartoon Fest in Prizren

A poster for the 8th Comic Book & Cartoon Fest in Prizren

Macedonian artist Vesna Nichevska-Saravinova blogged about her participation in the Prizren Comics Festival, organized by the Kosovo Comic Book Artist Association, Xhennet Comics [sq]. Four out of 15 featured artists at the festival were from Macedonia, Eddie Rebel reports [mk], alongside colleagues from Italy, Turkey, Cyprus, France, Kosovo, Bulgaria, and Bosnia.

Kosovo: “Cinematic Darkness Knows No Nation”

At Kosovo 2.0 blog, Belgrade-based journalist Dušan Komarčević writes - here and here - about his July 2012 trip to Prizren, Kosovo, to attend the DOKUFEST International Documentary and Short Film Festival:

[…] The cinemas were filled with movie lovers from Kosovo, Albania, Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Croatia, Serbia, … Serbs and Albanians together!, will exclaim in unison ethnocentric builders committed to multiply the concept of the Berlin Wall in as many locations as possible. Unlike diplomats from Belgrade and Prishtina, who are seated around the same table by some Brussels bureaucrat […], moviephiles don’t need any intermediaries. Of course, with the exception of celluloid film. […]

September 05 2012

Bulgaria: Independent Journalists Demand EU Intervention

A group of Bulgarian NGOs and individual journalists issued an open letter [bg, en] to Neelie Kroes, Vice-President of the European Commission, asking for a public meeting because “the situation of the media in Bulgaria is a threat not only for the Bulgarian society, but for the EU as a whole.”

August 29 2012

Macedonia, Bulgaria: Social Media Users Help Expose Forgery

A fact-checking intervention - a joint effort by Macedonian and Bulgarian social media users - has helped independent journalists expose forged documents used as lure for suspicious humanitarian donations.

During the previous weeks, Macedonian social media users were agitated after learning about alleged mistreatment of Eva Ilievska, a baby girl with malfunctioning heart, who was a subject of an online donation campaign a few months ago. Dozens of online portals and other media relayed the appeal for more funds, using titles like “Scandalous - Little Eva was Denied Health Care in Bulgaria - Due to Lack of Money for the Operation.” The people were donating money via designated humanitarian phone numbers and to the family's bank account, and indignantly shared such links [mk] via Facebook, calling upon their friends to contribute, too. These articles contained photos of the baby, who was born in April, and a scan of the alleged official document issued by a Bulgarian clinic.

A text message by the Foundation T-Mobile for Macedonia, informing that the user has donated 100 denars for Eva Ilievska's treatment. On top of this sum, the state takes +18% from the citizens as VAT (approx. EUR 2).

However, when a Facebook user from Bulgaria noticed this appeal, she quickly realized that the scanned document contained many factual inadequacies: the name and address of the hospital were wrong, the telephone numbers were strange, and, most of all, the text in Bulgarian looked as if it was not written by a speaker of the language, but appeared to be an automated online translation. Other Bulgarians (including Global Voices' Rayna St. and Veni Markovski) confirmed these facts [mk, bg] through Facebook comments, while their Macedonian friends tagged several journalists in order to involve them in the discussion. Over the weekend, the cat was out of the bag on a larger scale.

Immediate further research [mk] by professional journalist Meri Jordanovska from 24 Vesti [”24 News”], who contacted the child's father as well as the head of the Bulgarian clinic, revealed that the document was indeed a forgery. In fact, the girl's operation had already been completed and she was back in Skopje for further treatment. Margarita Conzarova, M.D., the director of the Sofia-based Clinic for Child Diseases and Heart Surgery, confirmed that she had not issued such a letter. In fact, the EUR 25,000 had been paid by the Macedonian State Healh Fund (80%) and the parents (20%), presumably using part of the previously donated funds. The Bulgarian surgeon said that a new operation on the child was not to be conducted for at least a year.

Dozens of Macedonian portals and other media relayed the news [mk]. According to unofficial information in Jordanovska's article, over EUR 20,000 had been donated by concerned citizens.

In the meantime, the Ilievski family members have been issuing contradictory statements. First, they were asking for more money via the this Facebook page [mk], then they were quoted claiming that the page was run “by the community” or that it had been hacked, and that they did not know who was asking for money, using appeals claiming that little Eva was to have a surgery in the next few days, and that EUR 3,000, then EUR 2,100 were still lacking.

“Who Wanted to Get Rich Over Little Eva's Heart?” The story made it to the front page of the Fokus daily.

An article by another web-savvy journalist, Miroslava Simonovska of the Fokus daily, republished on the Plusinfo portal, complemented the information, and showed [mk] that the father had been using the same documents to ask for money directly via e-mail. The director of the Skopje Clinic for Child Diseases, Aspazija Sofijanova, M.D., has filed criminal charges and the police started an investigation [mk] into possible fraud.

Macedonian citizens often donate money via text messages, as they believe that the three national mobile operators have checked the claims of the people who beg for money in order to solve health issues. So far, no statement by the mobile operators has been issued to the effect that they would return the money if the investigation proves fraud. Journalists claim that, to their credit, the operators do not take a cut from the proceedings, but transfer the whole sum to bank accounts of the people in need, and the 18% VAT to the state budget.

One of the participants in the Facebook discussion wrote about the baby:

…Again, the biggest loser is the most innocent person…

Meri Jordanovska concluded her second article this way:

It remains unclear for what purpose did Eva's parents gather money and who is hiding behind the August 23 document, which claims that the Bulgarian clinic is asking for more money for treatment. The Ministry of the Interior is on the move to clear up this case, so that the citizens could regain trust in calls for humanitarian donations.

August 18 2012

Bulgaria: Syrian and Iraqi Refugees on Hunger Strike

Bulgarian newspaper Dnevnik reports [bg] that 25 asylum seekers (21 Syrians and four Iraqis) went on hunger strike to protest the slowness of the asylum-granting procedures at the detention center for foreigners in the Bulgarian village of Lyubimets. Comments to the Dnevnik article reflect the general indifference to the plight of refugees, as well as anti-immigrant and xenophobic attitudes.

August 17 2012

Bulgaria: The Red Army Supports Pussy Riot

On the day of the verdict in the Pussy Riot trial, Russian embassies worldwide are seeing demonstrations in support of the incriminated punk band members. The Red Army Monument in the capital of Bulgaria, Sofia, has joined in: a picture of it with some of the soldiers wearing Pussy Riot-styled hats has spread on social networks this morning. The Macedonian outlet think.mk publishes a short post [mk] comparing this political art expression with the previous one, when the soldiers were painted as comics characters.

August 12 2012

Bulgaria: Don't Dismantle the Train Services!

Bulgarian blog “Работнически глас” (Worker's Voice) publishes [bg] a few photographs of a protest on Sofia's Central Railway Station. Held on August 9, this flashmob gathered around 100 people who chained a “human train” by standing one behind another. This “train” travelled inside the station while the protesters were calling for the end of the privatization procedure that the National Train Services is engaged in. As the protesters explained [bg], “the National Train Services belong to the people. Nobody has asked us whether we agree with them being privatized, so we want this process to stop now.”

August 11 2012

Bulgaria: Thousands of Trial Records Go Open

The Bulgarian section of the Open Knowledge Foundation announced [bg] the release of 580,049 court decisions and 607,656 additional documents, including motives. Although all those are already publicly accessible in the courts and some of them are browsable in a digital format on the Ministry of Justice website, there was a serious need of improving the organization and accessibility of this paper glut. Thus, the data are divided into two parts: raw materials and metadata. All of it [bg] is in turn ready for data mining and more complete analysis.

May 22 2012

Bulgaria: The Strongest Earthquake Since 1917

A 5.6 magnitude earthquake, the strongest since 1917, shook Bulgaria's capital Sofia and the perimeter zone of around 100 km last night, followed by a number of strong aftershocks. No victims have been reported so far. The website Earthquake Reports has published live updates and social networks such as Twitter and Facebook were the first ones to spread the news. The hashtag #земетресение (”earthquake”) is used to communicate on the event through Twitter.

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