February 1, 2011 – Washington, D.C. – The United Macedonian Diaspora (UMD) issued a statement today deploring actions by the Bulgarian State Agency of National Security (acronym DANS) to stamp down on freedom of the media and urging Bulgaria to respect the civil rights of their sizable Macedonian minority. UMD believes this attack on freedom of the media coincides with today’s start of the Bulgarian Census and is a direct effort to minimize the amount of Bulgarian citizens to report themselves as Macedonians.
Early in the morning yesterday, DANS officers entered the printing house Iranik-M in Blagoevgrad, confiscated 2,500 copies of the latest issue of the newspaper Makedonski Glas, (English translation: Macedonian Voice) detained the printing house manager Stoyan Nikolov Mihailov and another employee, and brought them to the DANS offices for interrogations until late in the evening. Prior to being released, both persons were forced to write explanations regarding the printing of the newspaper. During this entire time, neither person received any explanation, reason as to why they were being detained by DANS, shown any formal warrant for their detainment, or allowed the right to legal representation. The confiscated issues of Makedonski Glas have not been returned.
Makedonski Glas is a non-profit publication distributed free of charge covering events related to the Macedonian minority in Bulgaria. Makedonski Glas has not published material that can be regarded as radical and/or unlawful in any way. The latest issue of Makedonski Glas, which was confiscated by DANS, promoted active participation in the Bulgarian National Census, which starts today, and encouraged Macedonians in Bulgaria to list on the Census their Macedonian heritage. Iranik-M has filed a complaint with the public prosecutor’s office in Blagoevgrad.
“UMD had been closely monitoring the situation in Bulgaria in regards to the civil rights of Macedonians and this latest action to intimidate Bulgarian citizens of Macedonian heritage is appalling for a country that is a member of the EU,” said UMD Vice President Aleksandar Mitreski. “The actions of DANS, without a proper court order for such detainment and confiscation of an entire publication, are a precedent in democratic Europe. The right to self-identification and one’s right to express their heritage, as enshrined by the European Convention on Human Rights, is not a crime. For a member of the European Union, we would hope Bulgaria’s dark days of Communism and secret police interrogations should be long over. The dark days of communism and secret police confiscation would be over by now.”
UMD is concerned that such actions have been done in an effort to stamp down on the activities of the Macedonian minority in Bulgaria. UMD urged today the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights and the European Union authorities to investigate this matter.