Reporters Without Borders condemns the fine of 28,000 levas (14,000 euros) which the weekly Videlina (www.videlinabg.com) has been ordered to pay by 14 July for publishing a reader’s letter in October 2007 accusing a local politician of corruption. The fine has been upheld by an appeal court in the southern city of Plovdiv.
“It is deplorable that a newspaper or magazine can be convicted for publishing a reader’s letter,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Videlina cannot be blamed or held responsible for the views expressed by one of its readers, who anyway said she assumed complete responsibility for what she was writing. The people who were criticised by this reader, Kunka Delsheva, should have used their right of reply in Videlina instead of suing it.”
The initial ruling against Videlina, issued by judge Nevena Tankova of the Pazarjik regional court, was confirmed on 10 April by the Plovdiv appeal court, which in May ordered the freezing of the bank accounts of ELI, the publishing house that owns Videlina.
The magazine’s editor, Valentin Nenkov, has appealed against the ruling to a higher court, but his appeal does not suspend execution of the sentence and Videlina was ordered on 30 June to pay the full amount of the fine by 14 July at the latest.
Reporters Without Borders added: “The size of this fine is totally disproportionate, especially in a European Union member country, and threatens the magazine’s survival. We urge the judges to at least await the decision of the higher appeal court before seizing the money from its accounts. And the higher court should overturn the judgment on the grounds that it violates the basic principles of press freedom.”