and my immediate reaction: to send this letter to the editors, and to Bulgaraian all over the world:
To: Financial Times Editors
Financial Times No. 1
London se1 9hl
Copy: Bulgarian media
I am very concerned about your article in todays FT
“Organised crime clouds Bulgaria’s EU accession”
By George Parker in Brussels
Published: April 26 2006
Among many strong words about Bulgaria, it states, “Mr Jansen said Bulgarian police were failing to make full use of the legal changes implemented under pressure from Brussels to prosecute crime bosses of corrupt politicians. The Bulgarian authorities, he said, showed little interest in tackling human trafficking. “Woman are being traded in German whorehouses, but they say it’s not a problem. They say the Bulgarian women were prostitutes anyway.”
That statement is totally inappropriate and it constitutes an insult to all women in Bulgaria.
I can’t believe that anyone among the Bulgarian authorities would say something like that.
I thought that Financial Times has greater respect for people, for East Europeans, for Bulgarians, and for women.
If you are quoting Mr. Jansen, then he should apologize to the Bulgarian women for that statement. If he has a recording of a representative of the Bulgarian authorities, who says that “the Bulgarian women were prostitutes anyway”, please – deliver this representative’s name.
The Internet Society of Bulgaria has among its senior staff and members many young, skilled and bright women. Two of them happen to be right now in Brussels under one of the many projects we do, funded by the European Union’s 6th Framework Program. I can only imagine how they would feel when talking to their colleagues, who might have read the article.
Dear Editors, I hope you will find a way to beg for pardon the Bulgarian women, who were insulted in your article. If you do not react to this e-mail, I am planning to turn to the Press Complaint Commission at email@example.com
I also hope that other Bulgarians will write you similar letters.
Here are some examples of the letters, sent to the FT after my publication (names and other personal information are deliberately removed, but were sent to the editors – I got CC from the mail):
First of all, I would like to express my deep respect to “Financial Times” one of the most prominent and leading newspapers in the world. I am sure that only honorable people are working for that media.
Therefore, I was extremely surprised with that irresponsible statement about Bulgarian women that was published in FT of 26 April 2006 under the title “Organized crime clouds Bulgaria’s EU accession”.
I personally, being Bulgarian citizen, know that my country experiences a lot of difficulties and problems that could be considered as real obstacles for the EU accession. I know also, that the organized crime is a tragedy for the Bulgarian society. However, the FT statement that Bulgarian women are prostitutes could be also considered as a crime moral crime. I know, there is a lot of controversial interest concerning Bulgarian EU membership, but nobody is allowed to cross the line of human ethics.
More over, there is no one prostitute among my relatives, friends, colleagues, students and patients. I do not think they will be happy with that verdict. However, I would be happy, if you can take that into consideration.
I hope very much that such a respectable media as FT can find a possibility to clarify its position about the Bulgarian women.
Thank you in advance.
Resting with a great respect,
To: Financial Times Editors
Your article “Organised crime clouds Bulgaria’s EU accession” by George Parker in Brussels , published on 26 April 2006, poses questions no Bulgarian woman can avoid asking. In it, a European Commission expert of German nationality is quoted as follows:
The Bulgarian authorities, he said, showed little interest in tackling human trafficking. “Women are being traded in German whorehouses, but they say it’s not a problem. They say the Bulgarian women were prostitutes anyway.”
A statement such as this is abusive and derogatory. It is anonymous in regards to the original source of that observation, while the target of the offence leaves no doubts – the generic group of Bulgarian women who are being referred to as prostitutes.
I am a Bulgarian woman who is a senior professional in an international agency, working in Brussels at its representation to the European Union. I cannot help being offended by a statement such as this and disappointed by the fact that your otherwise professional and respectable newspaper can allow such a quote.
If the words of the Commission’s expert who investigated my country are true and this can be proved, you are obliged by the code of conduct of your business to disclose the true name of the concrete official from the “Bulgarian authorities” who made this statement, together with some proof, which the expert obviously should have at his disposal, that these words were indeed the words he was told. Perhaps the competent author of the article may at least assure the readership of FT that he has seen the proofs and has verified, as a self-respecting journalist, that the expert was not inventing in order to make his message stronger and clearer.
If there exists a representative of the Bulgarian authorities who indeed referred in such a way to half of the country’s population, FT may as well see its duty in revealing the whole story and that official’s name. Then I can guarantee you that the civil society in my country would be mobilised to have that person fired and prosecuted for offence and abuse of his/her civil-servant status.
If, however, there is no proof whatsoever that such words were in fact said by a representative of the Bulgarian authorities, we are witnessing a classic case of libel for political purposes. The joint responsibility for this lies to an equal extent with the expert and with the newspaper which has conveniently given the platform for it. An apology is due to the Bulgarian women who have been depicted in your article in manner that reveals double standards in attitude – these are words easily said about women from a former socialist Balkan country but I guess your reporters would think three times before writing anything even half weaker in regards to the women in France or UK.
Part of the process my country is going through is exactly making sure that no abuse of posts and power positions happen, even when such abuse takes the form of condescending comments by a Commission-designated expert about a country he obviously sees as implicitly inferior and worth not much more than disdain.
I would like to believe that your newspaper will consider this case and find the appropriate way of repearing the damage it has done to its own reputation in the eyes of its readership in a country that is about to join the European Union, as well as in the hearts and minds of those many Bulgarian professionals who work internationally – and not in the way referred to in your newspaper.
end of quoted letters
The FT responded with the following letter:
Naming and shaming the Bulgarian authorities is the right response
By Iskra Nikolova
Published: April 28 2006 03:00 |
From Ms Iskra Nikolova.
Sir, George Parker’s article “Organised crime clouds Bulgaria’s EU accession” (April 26) exposes some serious issues Bulgaria is facing in its fight with organised crime.
What is particularly worrying is the ignorant behaviour and the attempts to play down the situation (not just by the authorities but also by other members of the society). The quote relating to the trafficking of women is very disturbing. I firmly believe that exposing the issues in the press and naming and shaming the responsible authorities is the right thing to do.In my opinion, this is the only way to improve the situation in Bulgaria.
Voice Strategic Programmes,
Cable and Wireless UK,
Berks RG12 1XL,
P.P.S. On May 2nd, the Financial Times finally gave room to an objective view. The one of Mark West of the USAID (sic!):
Bulgaria’s first steps towards a well-functioning court system
By Mark West
Published: May 2 2006 03:00
Sir, While George Parker’s article “Organised crime casts shadow over Bulgaria’s EU accession” (April 26) highlights some of the serious challenges remaining for Bulgaria as it moves toward European Union accession, it is also part of a chorus of media coverage that misses an important part of the story: the real results of specific, concrete court reforms.
The effort to combat corruption is an enormous one in many countries, not only Bulgaria, and it is an effort that must be undertaken step by step in many areas of rule of law development. The first and most important step is a reconstructed, strengthened and, in turn, well-functioning court system. This step has been under way for several years now in Bulgaria and is showing real results. Unfortunately, these efforts rarely make the news, and public perception of corruption in the courts tracks this dearth of coverage.
A report released last month by the Center for the Study of Democracy shows that corruption in the judiciary is actually quite low, in fact one of the lowest sectors in all of Bulgarian society. Reported instances of corruption among judges have actually decreased each year since 2002, according to the CSD study.
Some high-profile instances of unethical practices do not tell the whole story. There are about 1,600 judges in Bulgaria and many thousands more clerks serving in more than 150 courts, and to work with these individuals is to know that court reform is succeeding. The United States Agency for International Development works tirelessly with 32 partner courts that have spent years implementing rigorous court reform plans with tangible results. These courts and the hundreds of heroes who work in them – from Sofia to Plovdiv to Varna – are living proof of the bedrock democratic values of openness, transparency, and accountability.
USAID has also supported creation of the National Institute of Justice, a permanent training centre for all new magistrates in Bulgaria. The six-month mandatory curriculum exposes junior judges to the best practices of the EU and the US, and, most important, to those Bulgarian judges and clerks at the leading edge of court reform. The NIJ is a legacy for the future of the Bulgarian judiciary, and for the EU itself – a legacy that supports the work of the courts right now.
To fight corruption a nation will have a long battle, and needs a well-functioning court system. To understand the fight against corruption, observers must look more closely at the real work of court reform and use the tools they discover along the way.
USAID Judicial Strengthening Initiative,
East West Management Institute,
1000 Sofia, Bulgaria