The disinformation landscape in Bulgaria

Published Tuesday 6 June 2023 at 11:07



INTRODUCTION                                                                                                                      1

EMBLEMATIC CASES                                                                                                            2

NARRATIVES                                                                                                                           4

COMMUNITY                                                                                                                            5

POLICY                                                                                                                                      5

Country: Bulgaria

Author(s) and affiliation:

Ruslana Margova, Dr. Milena Dobreva (GATE Institute, Sofia University St Kliment Ohridski)


  1. In recent years Bulgaria has been in constant early elections (five national votes in two years) and governed by a caretaker cabinet for more than a year. Political tensions in the country are a result of several corruption scandals that have led to a deepening lack of trust in the institutions. As a result,  powerful societal and political divisions remain impossible to bridge. This mistrust in official institutions and societal divisions are an ideal breeding ground for disinformation.
  2. Proof of the serious consequences of this mistrust is the transformation of COVID anti-vaxer user accounts and groups into pro-Putin advocates. Two years after the peak of the pandemic, a large proportion of Bulgarian society again holds opinions that differ in other EU countries ( and The strange coincidence between anti-vaxxers and Russophiles). What exactly the attitudes are can be seen in the latest Standard Eurobarometer 98 - Winter 2022-2023 ( In general, the majority of European citizens (56%) are satisfied with the European Union's response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. In Bulgaria, however, dissatisfaction prevails, with the EU response to the conflict receiving support by mere 48% of citizens, which is nevertheless higher than support for the national response which stands much lower at 34%. Providing financial support to Ukraine is endorsed by 77% of Europeans surveyed, while imposing economic sanctions on the Russian government, companies, and individuals wins the support of 74% of those interviewed. In Bulgaria, however, these sentiments are reversed – sanctions are supported by only 47% of citizens. While most Europeans continue to largely agree with banning Russian state media (67%), in Bulgaria the majority is against it - only 39% support it. A majority of respondents in all member states except Slovakia, Greece, and Bulgaria also agree with EU funding and supply of military equipment to Ukraine. In Bulgaria, only 33% support the provision of arms.
  3. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused an unprecedented increase in mortality, leading to a decrease in life expectancy worldwide, and Bulgaria is one of the countries severely affected ( Bulgaria suffers from non-vaccination (New data indicates declining confidence in childhood vaccines of up to 44 percentage points in some countries during the COVID-19 pandemic).
  4. As a whole, the Bulgarian disinformation landscape faces both old and new challenges, as well as domestic and external threats that feed on each other. In addition to cross-border disinformation, there are also many home-grown disinformation narratives – the misrepresentation of national history, the scary new technologies, and the closure of social media accounts.
  5. Low level of media literacy. Bulgaria is traditionally in the bottom of the EU countries ranking in the Media Literacy Index. Although there are numerous training initiatives in this domain, there is no positive dynamics so far.


There is no one such example that everybody in the country would give as an emblematic case of disinformation because of the mentioned strong societal polarization  and people's mistrust towards each other, the Bulgarian media and the national institutions. Usually, debunked cases remain only on the fact-checking sites and are largely ignored. When it comes to political attacks – again, supporters of a party remain confident that their elected representative is not lying and that they are being honorable, even if they have been exposed in debunks. This exacerbates the disinformation problem which Bulgaria has. 

Some widely circulated cases are of well-known Europe-wide narratives about the harms of coronavirus vaccines as well as the pro-Russian false narrative of the rich Ukrainian refugees (

However, we can outline some cases where the Bulgarian democratic community is more united.

  1. In Bulgarian society as a whole, there is an affection for the Bulgarian journalist from Bellingcat Hristo Grozev. On 21.04.2023, it was reported that a Russian court has requested the arrest of Hristo Grozev. The case was widely reported in the Bulgarian media. Russian authorities declared Bulgarian investigative journalist Hristo Grozev of Bellingcat a federal wanted person on 26 December 2022. The announcement states that Grozev is wanted in connection with a violation of an article of Russia's Criminal Code, but does not specify which article is in question. According to the Novosti news agency, criminal proceedings have been opened against the journalist for spreading fake news. The Bulgarian authorities officially asked the Russian authorities why he was wanted and received no adequate answer.

In February 2023 the documentary "Navalny", starring Hristo Grozev, was nominated for a BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) award in the documentary category. British police have banned Grozev from attending the BAFTA, because of the mentioned request for arrest. Nevertheless,  Hristo Grozev wone Oscar with the film Navalny ( One of the main newspapers in Bulgaria - newspaper. "Trud" published a commentary entitled "The film "Navalny" - disinformation that won an Oscar". However, this position – that the movie Navalny and Hristo Grozev are disinformation – is not supported by other Bulgarian media (;

The Bulgarian journalist has authored investigations that identified two senior Russian officers linked to the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in 2014; the GRU officers involved in the 2016 coup plot in Montenegro; the three suspects in the 2018 poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal; and the 2020 poisoning of Alexei Navalny. In July 2022, the Russian Federal Security Service reported that Grozev had taken part in a Ukrainian military intelligence operation. The goal was to hijack Russian warplanes. Grozev found two couriers who handed money to a Russian military aviator to hijack a plane. In November 2022, Hristo Grozev won the ICFJ (International Center for Journalists) "Founders Award" for excellence in journalism.Grozev.

  1. As in other European countries, among the main narratives in Bulgaria are those related to the war in Ukraine. For instance, one of the most recent cases is related to a claim about the Bulgarian government sending troops for Ukraine This false claim has been debunked by AFP fact-checkers and has been debunked: the Bulgarian government itself.

The situation in Bulgaria is revealed in the fact-checked article: When Russian troops invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022, the government of Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), whose leader Kornelia Ninova was also deputy prime minister and minister of economy and industry. She has stated that Bulgaria will not send arms to Ukraine.

In May 2022, the parliament decided that Bulgaria would send "humanitarian, financial and military-technical aid".

Since a no-confidence vote in June 2022 removed Kiril Petkov's government from power, Bulgaria has been governed by a caretaker cabinet, that was appointed by President Rumen Radev, who recently expressed his negative stance on sending arms to Ukraine.

In January 2023, former Prime Minister Petkov was quoted by Politico as saying that "about a third of the ammunition needed by the Ukrainian army in the early phase of the war came from Bulgaria." According to Petkov, these supplies were made covertly so as not to offend their BSP coalition partners.

  1. The two IFCN fact-checking organizations in Bulgaria have also debunked myths claiming that the European Union will make its citizens eat locusts: It is not true that 'people will now eat insects without knowing it' with EU permission and EU has not allowed the secret use of 'carcinogenic' insect ingredients in food



The community in Bulgaria is presented by different stakeholders:

  1. EDMO – BRODhub ( is the regional hub for Bulgaria and Romania, which similar to the EDMO central, is an independent observatory of disinformation in Bulgaria and Romania. BROD is bringing together regional fact-checkers and academic researchers with expertise in the field of online disinformation, journalist driven media and media literacy practitioners. The goal of BROD is to promote scientific knowledge on online disinformation in the region, coordinate  the development of fact-checking services in the two countries,and support national and regional media literacy programmes.
  2. Factcheckers in Bulgaria are: AFP ( and (with Ukrainian version and, and Bulgarian National Television (BNT) is making a new fact-checking team, thanks to the efforts of BROD hub.
  3. There are also citizen-led initiatives, such as the  "Are you lying?" project which is an initiative of a group of active citizens who want to debunk misinformation in Bulgarian politics. During the parliamentary election campaign, between 03.03.2023 and 31.03.2023, they tracked the participation of 23 parliamentary candidates in national broadcasts and checked how often they spread false information (
  4. There are also a number of NGOs and other organizations in Bulgaria which are aiming to tackle disinformation. A non-exhaustive list includes the Bulgarian Coalition against Disinformation (, the Media Literacy Coalition (, and the Center for the Study of Democracy  (


  1. Due to the overall political instability and lack of a democratically elected government, a coherent state policy against disinformation is currently lacking, which is a stark contrast from the significant efforts of the European Union.
  2. There is a law, proposed by Democratic Bulgaria, to oblige Facebook and other social networks to delete troll profiles. The Anti-Disinformation Bill will require social networks to do more to identify anonymous accounts and trolls, explained one of the importers - Bozhidar Bojanov ( The law is written on the basis of the already existing Digital Services Act of the European Union, which requires more transparency and information from social media.
  3. From May 4 2023, the LAW ON THE PROTECTION OF PERSONS SUBMITTING SIGNALS OR PUBLICLY DISCLAIMERING INFORMATION ABOUT VIOLATIONS comes into force. The purpose of the law is to ensure the protection of persons in the public and private sectors who report or publicly disclose information about violations of Bulgarian legislation or acts of the European Union, which became known to them during or on the occasion of the performance of their work or official duties or in another work context. This law regulates the conditions, order and measures for the protection of persons in the public and private sectors who report or publicly disclose information about violations of Bulgarian legislation or acts of the European Union that endanger or damage the public interest and the right of the European Union, as well as the terms and conditions for submitting and considering such signals or publicly disclosed information. Since it is a new law, there is no established practice (
  4. War in Europe and the Fight for the Right to Report - 2023 Annual Report by the partner organisations to the Council of Europe Platform to Promote the Protection of Journalism and Safety of Journalists (
  5. A leader of a political party represented in the parliament allows himself to persecute journalists ( ). So far, the leader of the Revival party Kostadin Kostadinov and his fellow party members have attacked journalists from Free Europe, Dnevnik and Deutsche Welle (


This project has received funding from the European Union under Contract number: 101083730 — BROD. This document reflects the views only of the independent Consortium, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained herein.