First Thorough Study of BTA Presented in New Book Launched at Apollonia Arts Festival
The Bulgarian News Agency (BTA) presented a book, History of BTA (1898-2023), published on the occasion of the 125th anniversary of the first news bulletin of the news agency. The event took place at the Art Gallery of the Black Sea resort town of Sozopol on Monday, the eighth day of the Apollonia Arts Festival.
The presentation was attended by the author of the book author Panayot Denev, who is a a long-time journalist and BTA Director General in 1997-2002, Prof. Dr. Rumiana Preshlenova, Director of the Institute of Balkan Studies with the Center of Thracology at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, as well as the current Director General of the BTA Kiril Valchev.
History of BTA (1898-2023) is the second part of a trilogy, with the first one, Personal Testimonies, released in February 2023. It contains accounts of employees who spent a significant part of their lives working at the BTA.
BTA Director General Kiril Valchev said Monday that the third part of the trilogy is expected to be published by the end of the year. “It will contain excerpts from the BTA archives during these 125 years. Each year will be presented with one domestic news story and one international news story, as seen by the BTA journalists in that year,” he said.
Valchev pointed out that the new edition is the first comprehensive study of the history of the news agency. There were quite good presentations of the agency’s history for its 100th anniversary, but this is an academic, unbiased study that has not been done before, the Director General said.
“From this book we can understand, first of all, what we need to preserve and develop,” said Valchev. Among the most important things, according to him, is that BTA should continue to present only facts and avoid adjectives, and make sure to always tell the reader the source of its information.
“BTA should continue to not seek likes, impressions or ratings. We should also continue what my predecessor and long-time director, the late Maxim Minchev, started – to tell the stories of Bulgarians around the world,” Valchev said.
“We should continue to modify our rules – something we did at the beginning of my term: we just rewrote some old rules in the agency. We need to rebuild, we learn from the book, the BTA’s strong network of correspondents,” he said. “But mostly what’s worth rebuilding, and we’re doing it quite successfully with Georgi Lozanov as head of BTA’s Culture Department, is to enhance the presence of culture in the BTA output.”
According to Kiril Valchev, lessons can be learned from the History of the BTA (1898-2023) about what not to do. “We should never allow the State Security [at BTA]. Back in history – and even now – the special services have had an interest in being present in BTA. We should not allow them that, not even the democratic services,” he said.
He said the most important thing that should never be repeated is “secret knowledge”. “Panayot Denev wrote in the book about the secret bulletins of the BTA – that all power-holders wanted, among other goodies, to have the privilege of being more informed than ordinary people,” he said. “The most important thing is for BTA to remain open, as it is now, with information freely accessible for all,” Valchev added.
According to the volume’s author, Panayot Denev, both books published this year for BTA are focused on the issue of memory. “It turned out that memory is very well preserved in the attics and basements in the BTA building at 49 Tsarigradsko Shose, which I, rightly I think, call the ‘BTA Golden Fund’,” he said. Denev said that the archive includes newsletters from 1898, which were handwritten in the beginning. Among them, he said, are newsletters stamped as “confidential” that have existed since the agency’s inception [and that were published solely for use by the power-holders]. The journalist said that in the beginning the newsletters were issued in four copies, one each for the palace, the prime minister, who was also foreign minister, and the minister of war. The fourth copy remained in the BTA archives. “And the next day, the official BTA news came out in the unofficial section of the State Gazette, and it wasn’t always all handwritten. So there is a special, secret archive from the day of its birth, from the issue of the first bulletin,” said Denev. “That ended in January and February 1990. Until then, every day we issued a “confidential” bulletin in some form. These things are important to remember,” he stressed.
Denev said that he now has an idea to translate the book in English.
Prof. Rumyana Preshlenova said that this history of the BTA is written in “a very modern way”. “It includes documentary evidence as well as lived and told stories,” she said. “I think the project was carried out in the best possible way – with a lot of commitment, with a lot of dedication. My role was a modest one, and it consisted of bringing the author’s highly evocative and expressive style closer to the genre of an anniversary edition,” the editor added.
“For most of us, this acronym – BTA – is something that tells the world about Bulgaria and Bulgaria about the world. But in fact it is a very complex organism that meets the highest and best international standards,” Prof. Preshlenova added.
The BTA Director General presented Margarita Dimitrova, Artistic Director of the Apollonia Arts Festival, with a jubilee medal and a postage stamp marking BTA’s 125th anniversary.
Among the guests at the event were the President of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, Academician Julian Revalski, the Director General of the Bulgarian National Radio, Milen Mitov, writer Georgi Gospodinov, BTA Deputy Director General Evgeniya Drumeva, the head of the BTA Culture Department, Georgi Lozanov.