BULSTRAD INSURES THE FREEDOM OF THE MEDIA
Bulstrad will be the first in Bulgaria to insure the independent and impartial journalism through its new product called Media Risks. The Bulgarian Telegraph Agency (BTA) is its first client. The agency's General Director Maxim Minchev claims that by buying the insurance BTA would be even better guaranteed in fulfilling its professional duties.
Insuring some professional risks in the work of journalists is a common practice in Europe and around the world. According to BTA, in Great Britain alone there were several newspapers sentenced twice in the past year - Daily Mirror, Guardian and Daily Telegraph, whereas Independent and Times had single sentences for libel, inaccurate information and violation of rights. Although pleadings of the kind are still exotic in Bulgaria, the Media Risks insurance will definitely increase guarantees for the media. It will make them work calmer and give more freedom to the journalists. Journalists should feel safer, too, since in case of legal proceedings they will not be abandoned by their edition for financial reasons, insurers say.
According to Georgi Lozanov, Chairman of the Bulgarian Media Coalition, the new insurance product will also support the observance of the Ethical Code of the Bulgarian journalists and will synchronize the media business rules with the European media legislation. So far nongovernmental organisations have been the ones to take care of the protection of the freedom of speech. Now the insurance business will be engaged with it, too. Moreover, insurance policies will protect the media to some extent from self censorship which is usually motivated by fear from error or sanction. Investigating journalism is especially beneficial for the insurers. However, the insurance agreement does not cancel the legal liability of the journalist or the media.
Bulstrad Executive Director Roumen Yanchev admitted that among the reasons why his company offered its new product to BTA was the lowest insurance risk of the public state-owned media. The insurance agreement signed by Maxim Minchev and Roumen Yanchev is valid for a year and will cover damages related to libel, offence, misappropriation of authorship, delusion, infringement of intellectual property rights including copyrights, trade marks, patent rights, and betrayal of other people's secrets. The policy has been developed to serve media institutions and is not offered personally to fully employed or freelance journalists, Bulstrad added. Still, individual insurance policies for journalists are expected to be developed in the near future. They will also cover legal expenses in potential legal proceedings, because guilty or not guilty - it is always the Bulgarian court to make a decision on the issue. However, the sides will be able to reach an out-of-court agreement with the consent of the insurer. The policy excludes extreme circumstances such as war, strike, or insolvency. The limit of liability for BTA amounts to BGN50,000. The insurance costs BGN200, with the risk percentage reduced to 0.4 per cent. For different media, the risk assessment will be different, because actuaries' calculations take into account factors such as Bulgarian court's experience in solving cases of the kind, influence of the ethical code of Bulgarian journalists, history of the media, internal media censorship, etc. Bulstrad assured that even the yellow press will be allowed to buy insurance but at a different price, since its risk ratio will be several times higher.
The future of the insurance policy will show whether media risks in the Bulgarian practice have been overestimated or underestimated. Most of them have been borrowed from the European insurance. And since professional insurance is not obligatory in Bulgaria yet, its terms will be negotiated individually for each media. If the managers wants to, they can buy a higher limit of liability at a higher price.