BTA News

BTA Director General for Press Trust of India: Cooperation with India Important to Counter Fake News

Cooperation between Indian journalists and their counterparts in Europe is an important step towards countering fake news spread on social media, Bulgarian News Agency (BTA) Director General Kiril Valchev said in an interview for Press Trust of India (PTI). The head of Bulgaria’s leading media organisation spoke to Aditi Khanna on Monday about a first-of-its-kind election coverage initiative involving the two leading news agencies.

While BTA covered the recently concluded Indian general election to create greater awareness about the world’s largest democratic exercise across the European Union (EU), PTI has been covering the European Parliament elections from the Bulgarian capital of Sofia.

“It is very important to have the full picture and where our place [in the world] is ,” explained Valchev. “This is the most important task of news agencies: to provide the facts, results of elections, and opinions of different political leaders. This is our answer to the problem of fake news and lies in social media. The only way to fight against fake news is with true, real news,” he said.

The former lawyer, who took over the role of head of the Bulgarian News Agency three years ago, said he feels very strongly about fostering greater understanding between countries and cultures. “It is fair to say that we don’t know each other very well. My goal is to add deeper information about each other’s countries to the global news output,” he said.

As a first for BTA, Valchev presided over a mega post-election event at the news agency’s headquarters in Sofia on Monday evening, during which reporters from each of the 27 EU Member States connected via video link to present the latest results tally for the European Parliament elections, which concluded on Sunday.

“We have been a member of the European Union since 2007, and this is the first time that we are doing this because we feel all Bulgarians must really feel like Europeans,” he said. The results, which are not expected to be officially declared till later in the week, were analysed by reporters on the ground across the capitals of all EU countries. An overarching theme that emerged was one of voter apathy and low voter turnout, with a few exceptions, such as the Czech Republic and Hungary, where turnout was higher than in previous elections.

Professor Ingrid Shikova, one of the founders of the Department of European Studies at the St Kliment Ohridski University of Sofia, said that “social media and technology are the likely winners in these elections”, adding that this phenomenon is not limited to Bulgaria alone. “We see that those who are on YouTube, TikTok, etc, are winning,” she told BTA in her analysis. Shikova said that she talks to many young people, and the landscape is varied: “Some of them are seriously engaged, others are indifferent, but we can see that social media largely shapes the civic consciousness of young people, which is not ideal,” she said, highlighting the need for more systematic civic education in society.