Friday, August 29, 2008


Would you grant a prestigious journalism award to a man who wrote the following:

"The first to leave will be international companies. There won’t be anyone to sell their new shit to, and they’ll move away to somewhere with less Gypsies and more money. Who’s going to buy soap for soft and tender white skin? Dirty Gyppos?”

“The difference between Gypsies and cattle is that cattle are subject to veterinary control. Livestock can't behave like Gypsies, but the reverse is allowed. Bovine rights and freedoms have been under serious pressure to years, and during that time the Gypsy woman has given birth to twins again and she's as bloody-minded as a cow yet again.”
Well, believe it or not someone did.

These are just two quotes from a man, Kalin Rumenov (pictured here), who was awarded a coveted prize for journalism late in May in Bulgaria.

The award, the 2008 Bulgarian Chernorizetz Hrabur "Young Journalist" prize, was received by Kalin Rumenov at an official ceremony in Sofia, Bulgaria on the 25th of May 2008 in the presence of leading politicians, members of Parliament and journalists.

Today, three months later, the International Federation of Journalists (the world's largest organisation of journalists) finally joined the parade of those outraged by the action.

Racist articles by Rumenov are regularly published in the "Novinar" national newspaper, which makes no effort to distance itself from his views or to publish any balancing material to counter Rumenov’s. The Bulgarian Press Ethics Commission does not consider this to be a problem worthy of their attention.

Jewish human rights activist Shimon Samuels of The Simon Wiesenthal Centrer (which has condemned the award giving) described Rumenov’s writings as "...redolent of the 1930s and 1940s when both Jews and Gypsies were marked for Nazi extermination.”

Samuels has got that right.

Shortly after the award was presented a coalition in Bulgaria of various professional groups set up a petition for the prize to be publicly withdrawn. Those who signed the petition to withdraw his prize are calling on the President and the Prime Minister of Bulgaria, who were present at the ceremony to make a public declaration that they do not share the values represented by the racist author.

However, incredibly on July 30th it was announced that the Union of Bulgarian Writers had refused to withdraw the award.

An estimated 700,000 gypsies or Roma live in Bulgaria, forming nine percent of the country's population. The community is poverty-ridden and isolated in ghettos, largely illiterate and often discriminated against.

The following is from the International Federation of Journalists.

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.

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