“Media Under Siege” explores how the issues related to media freedom and independence in Bulgaria impact the next generation of journalists. The newspaper (print and digital) includes a series of articles that study and analyse the current state of affairs – all pressing and gravitating problems. The three topics on focus are: investigative journalism, media law, and recent graduates working in the field.
The purpose behind my project was simple: shed light on an aspect of the media in Bulgaria that is covered in darkness. I’d like to believe that the impact of this research, the conversations with experienced Bulgarian journalists and international experts created an opportunity for my fellow students and young people in the country. An opportunity to feel free to pursue their journalistic careers without fear that someone might use their influence to impede them or prevent them from reporting the truth objectively.
In terms of content, I did a series of interviews with Bulgarian journalists who have worked in the field for many yers, with international experts (professors, media directors, media law professionals, and others). I did a research on the media business model in Bulgaria and the media laws in the country. I have also talked to recent graduates who had just started working in the field of journalism in Bulgaria.
I used Adobe InDesign as a software to create the newspaper. The main illustration was created on Adobe Illustrator with the help of a fellow student. The rest of the illustrations are from a Fine Acts exhibition on Freedom of Speech. I also used Adobe Lightroom for the photographs I’ve used.
I applied for a grant from my alma mater – the American University in Bulgaria and received enough funds to find a local printing house and print the newspaper (250 copies). I have also created a digital version of the newspaper on a dedicated website – https://www.mediaundersiege.com – building the website using the Webflow platform.
What was the hardest part of this project?
The hardest part of this project was connecting all the dots from every single interview, every single conversation, and every single material that I read doing my research. All of these sources gave me their own stories (in the forms of conversations or written content) but somehow they were all related. While I was assembling the project, I realized that my mind was submerged. I felt inexplicably overwhelmed and in that moment, when I was starting to lose grip of reality, something in my mind clicked. All the pieces of the puzzle started making sense and the stories connected. I understood how valuable such projects are because the state of media in Bulgaria has been dire for many years now. The reason is that exploring a corrupted field will inevitably try to corrupt the explorer. The process made me think there are too many problems for people to care or try to resolve. Persistence, however, showed me there is a way. In that very moment when the information I had acquired clicked, I understood that once you move beyond the moment of confusion and deliberate complication of circumstances by media moguls and enemies of free speech, the idea of free media is no longer helpless. The siege on media suddenly confronted a resistance.
What can others learn from this project?
I believe that not only journalists but all people out there can learn that society needs to care. Society needs to care when kids die on the streets, society needs to care when journalists get fired, society needs to care when people get silenced because today this might not be your child who died, or your friend who got fired, or a family member who was beaten up on the street because of the nature of his or her work, but tomorrow it might be. Society needs to understand that these are our kids, our journalists, our fellow citizens. In situations like these, society needs media that can be trusted. We need journalists who are not afraid to investigate, to ask questions and hold the right people accountable.