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Media owners' prize to journalist known for hate speech reveals "shocking indifference and complacency," warns IFJ

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is a 29 August 2008 IFJ press release:

IFJ Calls on Bulgarian Media Owners to Act over Racism and Withdraw "Shameful" Prize

The International Federation of Journalists today called for a "wide-ranging and honest" debate within Bulgarian journalism over intolerance in media following the presentation of a journalism prize by press owners to a reporter who has a reputation for hate-speech.

The IFJ says the award of this year's Chernorizetz Hrabur Young Journalist of the Year prize to Kalin Rumenov, a journalist with the "Novinar" national newspaper, reveals "shocking indifference and complacency" among publishers and should be withdrawn.

"Racism and intolerance are the great challenges facing modern European society," said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. "Publishers should not be engaged in the shameful business of presenting professional honours to an outspoken racist. This sends a message that gives the impression Bulgarian journalism is insensitive to the consequences of intolerance in society."

The IFJ and its European section the European Federation of Journalists is calling for a national campaign to set standards for reporting on issues of intolerance and the rights of minorities and to raise awareness of the dangers of hate speech.

Rumenov received his prize from the Union of Publishers in Bulgaria in the presence of leading politicians, members of Parliament and journalists. The action prompted a protest from other journalists and civil society groups because the journalist is renowned for articles in his newspaper attacking the country's Roma minority in offensive and racist terms.

A petition calling for the prize to be withdrawn was submitted to the publishers group in July, but no action has been taken. Critics are incredulous at the award to Rumenov not least because it is made for his general contribution to journalism rather than for any specific piece of work. His racist and intemperate articles are well known within media and among the public at large.

The IFJ says the controversy highlights the failure of Bulgarian media owners to join with journalists and the IFJ's affiliates in Bulgaria, the Union of Bulgarian Journalists and the Podkrepa-Journalists Union, in establishing credible forms of self-regulation and a deeper understanding of media freedom. "Journalism is not without responsibility to the public interest," said White. "It's time for a new and searching debate about how to distinguish robust and challenging journalism from unacceptable prejudice and intolerance," said White.

Details of the petition:

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries worldwide.

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