Déjà vu – the Bulgarian Idea for Referendum on Turkish News

I am in a state of déjà vu – after the Swiss referendum on the ban of minarets, now we have an idea for a national referendum on whether to continue allowing the broadcast of Turkish language news on Bulgarian national television.

Just as for the Swiss referendum, I will focus on the legal implications only.

The Bulgarian Law Providing for Citizens’ Direct Participation in Government allows for national referendums on questions of national importance that are within the competences of the Parliament. Reading the Bulgarian Constitution it appears that such a referendum should result in the adoption of a law by the Parliament that explicitly prohibits the broadcast of Turkish language news on Bulgarian national television. I will stop my analysis of Bulgarian constitutional law here. My Bulgarian colleagues should understand what I am talking about.

But apart from the Bulgarian Constitution we also have the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (CPNM). Bulgaria is legally bound by this Convention. Let’s have a look at art. 9, para. 4 of the Convention:

“4. In the framework of their legal systems, the Parties shall adopt adequate measures in order to facilitate access to the media for persons belonging to national minorities and in order to promote tolerance and permit cultural pluralism.”

The explanatory memorandum to the convention says:

“This paragraph emphasizes the need for special measures with the dual aim of facilitating access to the media for persons belonging to national minorities and promoting tolerance and cultural pluralism. The expression “adequate measures” was used for the reasons given in the commentary on Article 4, paragraph 2 (see paragraph 39), which uses the same words. The paragraph complements the undertaking laid down in the last sentence of Article 9, paragraph 1. The measures envisaged by this paragraph could, for example, consist of funding for minority broadcasting or for programme productions dealing with minority issues and/or offering a dialogue between groups, or of encouraging, subject to editorial independence, editors and broadcasters to allow national minorities access to their media.”

To my understanding we have allowed the broadcast of the news in Turkish in order to implement the CPNM, that is, to fulfill an international obligation.

Now we want not only to stop, but also to prohibit the broadcast of news in Turkish on the Bulgarian national television (we will have to do this by law once the referendum approves the measure).

My simple question is – by doing this, will we or will we not infringe the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities?

I would welcome any comments from experts in the field (I am really NOT interested in propaganda).

Update: Dnevnik says that the ALDE group has put the question on the agenda for the plenary session of the European Parliament in January 2010.

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