LGBTI people are the new target of 'poisonous' media arrows.

The Bulgarian Helsinki Committee and the Association 'Organization Drom' presented a study and a report on 'The Image of Minority and Vulnerable Groups in Bulgarian Media'.

The Bulgarian Helsinki Committee and Organization Drom presented a study and report titled 'The Image of Minority and Vulnerable Groups in Bulgarian Media' at a press conference. The conference was attended by Assoc. Prof. Dr. Ivo Indzhov, the author of the research report, Rupen Rusinov, a political scientist and expert on minority issues, lawyer Tanya Kaltseva, representative of Organization Drom, and Krassimir Kunev, the chairman of the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee.

The study focused on analyzing the content of 13 media outlets in Bulgaria, including television, radio, news websites, and newspapers, during the period of January-February 2023. Its goal was to investigate the portrayal of traditional minority groups in Bulgarian society and specific vulnerable groups, such as LGBTI individuals, migrants from the Middle East, North Africa, and Ukraine, who were either passing through or residing in the country. The research paid special attention to the use of hate speech against these groups in the media. A total of 739 publications were selected during the monitoring.

The author noted that news-type materials predominated, while the number of in-depth articles exploring the issues and emotions of representatives of minority and vulnerable groups was relatively low. One of the main conclusions of the study was that, in general, the media, especially the two major private television channels and public media, as well as some news-analytical websites, adhered to professional journalistic ethics in covering information related to "diverse" individuals in society.

According to the data from the study, Bulgarian media most frequently provided information related to migrants from the Middle East and North Africa, with 465 publications, accounting for 63% of the total number of publications included in the study. These materials were twice as many as those concerning all other minority and vulnerable groups combined. Publications about migrants from Ukraine were relatively few, only 4%.

The study selected 99 publications about Roma (13% of the total sample). In comparison with the media representation of Roma from previous studies, it is striking that in 2023, the language used by the media towards Roma is characterized by relatively more careful expressions, with a reduction in dehumanization, demonization, exposure, and labeling of the community as a problem for the country. Offensive conclusions about the entire ethnicity, which were common before, have also significantly decreased. The quantity and quality of provoking hatred and violence, as well as attributing blame for most of the failures of the transition, have decreased in the publications. Nevertheless, it should be noted that the sharp change in the media coverage of this ethnic group does not lead to a positive attitude but mainly to a reduction in the quantity of publications related to Roma issues, with certain qualitative improvements in information. When comparing the data from 2023 with those from 1997 and 2019, specifically for the three newspapers with the largest circulation, a reduced number of publications about Roma stands out. All of these trends lead to one of the important conclusions, made with a large dose of caution, according to the author of the study, namely that the "Roma" topic is no longer in the main focus of media attention.

Regarding the LGBTI community, a total of 89 publications were registered during the monitoring period. Half of them had a neutral information tone. In the other half, almost entirely in several newspapers and websites, expressions such as "brutal gender deception," "sodomite locusts," "gender confusion," "Brussels obsession with gender ideology," "revision of biology and the normal," and others were found.

In these publications, LGBTI individuals are presented as a threat to society, normalcy, and the country's future: "perversions and pathologies that openly target our children," "sequential and gradual behavior – already taking over universities, soon schools, preparing children's kindergartens"; "Indoctrinating the minds of the young"; "Gender devotees, defenders of pedophilia"; "The fact is that, with the money of the global villain George Soros and his worldwide network of darkness, attempts are being made to buy the souls and consciences of teachers and students with yellow pennies."

"In fact, this attitude, style, and approach to representing the group – stigmatization, dehumanization, demonization, presenting them as a problem and a threat to the country – greatly resemble the way several media outlets used to represent Roma until recently. The fact that Roma have almost disappeared from their focus, and instead the LGBTI community (or 'genders,' as they are now derogatorily referred to in similar media) has been targeted and stigmatized, gives grounds for the assumption that there has been a change in the 'target.' The poisonous media arrows are now directed in a different direction," says the report.

The media research and the report were commissioned by the organization "Organization Drom" within the framework of the project "Strengthening the Role of Civil Society Organizations of Vulnerable Communities in Bulgaria to Counter Discrimination, Intolerance, Hate Speech, and Prejudice" (EQUAL TOGETHER). The project is co-funded by the program of the European Union "Citizens, Equality, Rights, and Values" (2021 - 2027) and is implemented by a consortium coordinated by the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee.

 Learn more about the project HERE

You can find the report on 'The Image of Minority and Vulnerable Groups in Bulgarian Media' electronic format on the websites of the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee и Association 'Organisation Drom'