Bulgaria: The Attempt for Creation of the First Religious Radiostation has Collapsed


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Date: Wed, 29 Aug 2001 09:57:11 +0300 (EEST)
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Subject: Bulgaria: The Attempt for Creation of the First Religious Radiostation has Collapsed

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Original sender: Emil Cohen <toleranc@geobiz.com>

Bulgaria: The Attempt for Creation of the First Religious
Radiostation has Collapsed


TOLERANCE FOUNDATION*
an associated member of the "Human Rights without Frontiers
International"
 
PRESS RELEASE
 
Sofia, August 23, 2001
 
BULGARIA: THE ATTEMPT FOR CREATION OF THE FIRST BULGARIAN RELIGIOUS
RADIO STATION HAS COLLAPSED. THE FOUNDERS OF THE STATION WILL SEEK
JUSTICE IN STRASBOURG
 
In last November the State Telecommunications Commission refused to
give a license to the first religious radio station in Bulgaria. Later
the applicant, Voice Hope Ltd., a company specially created to
broadcast radio programs with Christian content, has lodged a complain
against the decision of the State Telecommunications Commission before
the Supreme Court of Cassation (for more details see the Press Release
of Tolerance Foundation from December 12, 2000, now available on both
of the web-sites of the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee
http://www.bghelsinki.org and the Greek Helsinki Monitor
http://www.greekhelsinki.gr ).

On March 12, 2001 the Supreme Court of Cassation rejected the appeal
of Voice Hope Ltd. against that decision of the State
Telecommunications Commission (STC).

On July 11, 2001 the plenary session of the Supreme Court of Cassation
af-firmed the decision taken by the lower court.  The decision of the
plenary session is irrevocable. Thus Voice Hope Ltd. exhausted all
domestic remedies and the only way for reaching of justice is the
submission of complaint before the European Court of Human Rights in
Strasbourg.

The reasons of the judgement of the plenary session of the Supreme
Court are completely nominal ones. The Court claimed that the STC
could give so-called "license for broadcasting activity" in this case
only that the previous license, the so-called "program license" had
been given by the NRTC.  It is true that the STC has not been able to
give a license to Voice Hope Ltd. if the NRTC has refused to give them
the so called “program license”. According to the negative decision of
the NRTC "the design of the creators of the Voice Hope Radio do not
fully correspond to the criteria of the NRTC in three points and
correspond only partially in five points". For example, the Council
points out that Voice Hope Ltd. does not correspond to the NRTC
requirements of having "cultural and educational functions". This is
manifestly absurd, since the radio's program design makes it evident
that education in the values of Christianity is one of its main
priorities.

There are reasonable suppositions that the real reason for the refusal
of the NRTC is their reluctance to give a license to non-orthodox
religious radio-station. In support of these suppositions is the
circumstance that despite of the provisions of the Access to Public
Information Act the NRTC had refused to carry out its obligation to
supply a copy of the transcript of the October 2, 2000 meeting when
the negative decision was taken.

There is no special Orthodox Radio-station in the country, but many
radio and TV stations have a lot of Orthodox broadcasts. Recently
Radio "Free Europe" has informed, that the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian
Orthodox Church has sent an application to the NRTC for establishing a
special Orthodox TV channel.

Tolerance Foundation believes that both the decisions – of the NRTC
and of the plenary session of the Supreme Court of Cassation - violate
the religious human rights of the citizens. Hereof Tolerance
Foundation, Voice Hope Ltd. and Bulgarian Helsinki Committee held a
joint meeting at the beginning of August. At that meeting a decision
was taken both of the human rights groups to give a legal assistance
to Voice Hope Ltd. in bringing a complaint before the European Court
for Human Rights in Strasbourg. Now the complaint is in process of
preparation.
 
On behalf of Tolerance Foundation:
 
Emil Cohen, President
_____________________________________
*The TOLERANCE FOUNDATION is a human rights group monitoring the
freedom of conscience and the religious freedom practices in Bulgaria,
providing legal assistance to victims of discrimination based on
religion, as well as propagating the idea of tolerance towards
religious and other convictions.
 
The group was founded in 1994. Mr. Emil Cohen is President of the
Tolerance Foundation. Since April 2001 the organization has been an
associate member of 'Human Rights without Frontiers International'.
 
Address: 1000 Sofia, 163A "Rakovsky" St.,
Phone/fax: (+359 2) 981 23 57;
Phone: (+359 2) 988 31 36;
E-mail: toleranc@geobiz.com

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