More than 500 intellectuals in Bulgaria have signed an open letter calling on voters in the May 26 European Parliament elections to support parties and candidates that are “pro-European, pro-democracy and pro-liberal”.
The open letter was issued to mark both the May 24 Day of Slavonic Language and Literature and the May 26 election day.
The signatories describe themselves as “citizens united by the values of liberal democracy and the protection of human rights”.
The letter calls on Bulgarians to “firmly unite on the democratic principles and liberal values of freedom, equality, respect for civil and human rights, tolerance, solidarity, environmental protection and the concern of all members of society, enshrined in the basic documents of the European Union”.
“We are deeply concerned with the increasing polarisation in society both in Bulgaria and globally,” the letter says.
It said that extreme nationalism was emerging, active attempts were being made to blur the boundary between religion and the secular state, and large financial resources were being poured into support for ultra-conservative and populist movements.
“An active effort is being made to reverse the human rights and democratic freedoms achieved in recent years: denying well-established scientific research and attempting to replace it with propaganda doctrines; non-governmental organizations, academics, journalists, human rights defenders and representatives of civil society are being attacked; fundamental international human rights and child rights documents which Bulgaria has long accepted have been called into question.”
The new media are used to manipulate public opinion, spread false news, and instigate paranoid fears. Armies of trolls and bots impose extreme positions masquerading as the “voice of civil society”, undermining trust in authorities and key sources of information.
“The public space is flooded with disinformation campaigns to the point of complete disorientation and mass hysteria,” according to the letter.
In the public discourse, tendencies towards extremism were increasing, the letter says.
Hate speech was expressed freely and unchallenged, “and from the word to the actual action the step is sometimes too short”.
The letter says that Bulgaria is increasing withdrawing from the choice that society had made in recent years, from the democratic path of development and from its pro-European orientation.
“Paradoxically, it is precisely those who are most actively attacking confidence in common European values, who are the first in the list of MEPs and threaten to demolish our common European home from within.”
“All of this is part of a global process outlined in the Open Letter of Thirty World Intellectuals. They are alarming that Europe faces the greatest threat to its existence since the 1930s and they urge active upholding of the principles of liberal democracy and European values,” the letter says.
“We join the appeal of intellectuals and appeal to our fellow citizens: Be active, inform and give your voice to parties and candidates who clearly proclaim pro-European, pro-democracy and pro-liberal orientation! Our European identity complements and enriches, not opposes our national identity.”
Bulgarian culture has always flourished during periods of open and active exchange with European and world traditions, the letter says.
“And the European Union is the surest guarantor that our language and our culture will be preserved and will leave a lasting trace of European and world cultural heritage.
“To all those who are about to represent us in the European Parliament in its next term, we remind him that its is a community based on shared values: respect for human dignity, human rights, freedom, democracy, equality and the rule of law. These values require us to uphold pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice and solidarity in society,” the letter says./ibna