07 February 2024

photo: CASE

The Bulgarian insurance company "LEV INS" received the anti-award for corporate SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) of the year from the Coalition Against SLAPP in Europe (CASE). The anti-award was announced at a ceremony on 6th of Feb. in Strasbourg. "LEV INS" attracted the jury's attention with a record case of one million leva against the media site Mediapool, which was recently lost in the first instance.

The Coalition, comprising over 100 organizations from across Europe, including the Association of European Journalists - Bulgaria, organized the European SLAPP competition to draw attention to politicians and companies exercising legal pressure and harassment against journalists and activists.

The anti-awards are presented in six categories: Corporate, Politician, Country, Farcical Threat, International, and the audience award: "Bully of the Year." The jury in the first five categories consisted of five Members of the European Parliament: Sylvie Guillaume (SD), Vladimir Bilčík (EPP), Emmanuel Maurel (The Left), Viola von Cramon (Greens), and Ramona Strugariu (Renew), along with representatives from the civil sector.

In the "Corporate Bully" category, besides "Lev ins," Gaz System (Poland) and SPAR (Austria) were also nominated.

The anti-award for Politician went to the Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni; for Country – Malta; for Farcical Threat – TotalEnergies, and for "International Bully" – the Swiss company SAKTO, which also received the audience award.

"LEV INS" lost the SLAPP case filed against Mediapool in the first instance, according to the decision of the Sofia City Court on January 11, 2024.

According to the Executive Director of the Access to Information Programme and attorney-in-law in the case, Alexander Kashumov, the anti-award for "LEV INS" signifies:

  1. 1. The lawsuit against Mediapool is a precedent even on a European, not only on a national level – both in terms of its size and in seeking media responsibility where a minister is quoted from a public source – a transcript from a government meeting.

  2. 2. In Bulgaria, the climate for freedom of speech and public discussions on socially significant issues, is not favorable. This condemns us to corruption and poverty.

  3. 3. Efforts should be made towards better freedom of speech. This should happen both through a judicial system and through a change in the law. Lastly, politicians, public servants, and large companies should show tolerance towards criticism. If this change does not occur, we will neither be democratic nor prosperous.