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Following the Hidden Camera... Yordanka BEKIRSKA Touching stories that reverberate in our consciousness, told by mothers whose children have problems with drug addiction, direct interviews with the addicts themselves... and a hidden camera, which filmed people treating themselves with methadone... All this is captured in the film Zavisimost (“Addiction”).* Along with these stories, there is a constant stream of forced, yet rather audacious metaphors, which set an extremely negative tone, reinforcing the stigma attached to drug addiction, which is truly the last thing addicted people need. There is an ongoing, rambling juxtaposition of stories with mountains of trash being crushed by a huge grinder, swallowing up unwanted, discarded junk. Are these people truly so unequal to others, do they truly have no families, no friends? The people filmed with a hidden camera are treating themselves with methadone, near the building where the methadone program is run. However, at the time the film was shot, they did not know they were the object of unlawful filming, and they had not given their consent. The footage was shown with the subtitle “hidden camera”, but the proper measures were not taken to protect the identity of the people shown. The use of hidden cameras for purposes that are not in the public interest contradicts the ethical standards set forth in the Bulgarian Media Code of Ethics. Professional documentarymakers also classify such an act as being immoral and unethical. The film does not make clear that the substance being injected is methadone; rather, it gives the misleading impression that the people are just having another fix of drugs. Creating false impressions is an interesting device, but in this case, it leads to another violation of the Code of Ethics. The faces of the people filmed can be seen perfectly clearly, in certain places totally uncovered, and their identity is not at all protected. A black line has been placed over the eyes of some of the people, but it does not serve its purpose. There are times in the film when the camera comes in for a close-up shot, and despite the black line that covers only the eyes, the people are quite easily recognizable due to their other distinguishing features (nose, ears, chin, lips), which are not covered. The * The film’s studio producer is Art Winar. It is based upon reallife events and was written and produced by Bilyana Trayanova, directed by Deyan Russev, and filmed by Rumen Vassilev, Vanyo Georgiev, and Rossen Daskalov. The film premiered at the Doma na Kinoto movie theatre. Noticed at that premiere, the documentary was then broadcast twice on Bulgarian National Television’s Channel 1.

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placement of the black line makes it look like they are wearing sunglasses. It is an indisputable fact that sunglasses do not render a person unrecognizable. Several of the people filmed claim that even today, there are people - both acquaintances and strangers - who, upon meeting them, express negative attitudes towards them and their health problem, narcotics addiction. As a result of the thoughtless and irresponsible manner in which the film has been shown, one of the people depicted has sustained serious non-material damages, constituted not only by the disregard for his personal honor and dignity, but also the shock and upheaval caused in his family relationships, which until then had not been at all problematic. As a consequence of the footage being aired and the violation of the inviolability of his personal life, his pregnant girlfriend left him, and had an abortion. This outcome, resulting from the blatant disregard of the filmmakers, caused him severe, irreparable anguish. With this act, the filmmakers thoughtlessly violated a fundamental human right, enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of Bulgaria - namely, respect for the private and family life of its citizens. The filmmakers’ irresponsible approach constitutes unlawful interference in the private life of the victims, in violation of their honor, dignity and reputation. The gross infringement of their personal inviolability, by public display of facts of their private lives, for which they did not give their consent, demonstrates lack of professionalism and unethical abuse of personal identity. Another factor indicating the violation of a constitutionally-protected right is the lack of public interest in the filming of people treating themselves with methadone outside the building where the methadone program is conducted. Consequently, there was no legitimate reason for the full exposure of their easily-recognizable faces. The Personal Data Protection Act contains an exhaustive enumeration of the cases in which the processing of personal data is permissible. Not one of them was present in this case. On the contrary, the same law prohibits the handling of personal information pertaining to a person’s health status. Airing private information before the general public about the personal health of those filmed, constitutes a violation of that provision. With their irresponsible and unprofessional actions, the filmmakers also violated the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR). The ECHR protects the right to respect for a person’s “private life”; this Continued on page 30


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The village of Rakovski has a total of 3,960 residents, or about 906 households; 1,200 of them are Roma. Six hundred identify themselves as Millet, and 600 as Turkish gypsies - Horhane Roma. The party in power in the village is the MRF. There are quite a few members of the Horhane Roma and Millet in the local MRF party structure, but there are no Roma in the leadership. The Horhane Roma and Millet have no party structure of their own. The MRF’s attitude towards the Horhane

Roma and the Millet is very peculiar, in my view, since there is no apparent discrimination among us, and there has never been. We all live together. But a gypsy is still a gypsy, in their eyes. There is always a disparaging attitude towards the Horhane Roma and the Millet. This can be felt at weddings and funerals and other sorts of family celebrations; they do not mingle. All of the leadership positions in the village are held only by Turks, and the Roma have no access to them. Any gypsy who starts to rise meets with resistance from the Turkish population. I’ve felt it myself, in the school. The teachers who are Turks assume that the Roma children are stupider than the Turkish ones, because they have a hard time grasping the material and they don’t understand it. Another example is the family doctor in the village, who is an ethnic Turk, as well, and doesn’t pay enough attention to his Roma patients, as much as he does to the Turks. He treats them negligently from the time they step through the door, and doesn’t care for them at all. During elections, the Bulgarian Socialist Party stops by, pays 5 levs each, and the gypsies go and vote. Then the MRF comes by and pays 5 levs each to the others, too, and they go and vote. And so forth. They vote for whoever gives more money, and he wins. In the last local elections, the Roma got money from three places and voted for whomever they pleased. At the moment, the presidential campaign is not at all active. This is the first time we have seen such a disgraceful campaign. It is so apathetic that many people don’t even know there is about to be a presidential election. Perhaps certain people have nothing to gain from this election campaign.„

Continued from page 18 is a broad concept, which encompasses a person’s physical and moral inviolability. However, it is this right which was violated, since the people shown were filmed without their consent and adequate efforts were not made to protect their identity. Thus, facts of their private lives were crudely put on display and their sanctity was violated. To what extent was this interference in their lives necessary? There need to be some particularly serious reasons, in order for interference on the part of state authorities to be considered lawful and in accordance with European regulations. But here, there are none. In this particular case, the interference and gross violation of the honor and dignity of the people filmed with a hidden camera was not in the “interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others”. The notion of “ne-

cessity” is linked with that of “a democratic society”. ECtHR jurisprudence demonstrates that the violation of a right guaranteed by the ECHR cannot be viewed as “necessary in a democratic society” if it is not proportionate to the legitimate aim pursued. In this case, it is difficult to speak of a legitimate aim, since none exists. It is essential to note that the defendant’s actions cannot be justified by a constitutionally protected right, namely that of freedom of expression. The reason for this is found in the constitutional provision which stipulates that “this right shall not be used to the detriment of the rights and reputation of others”. Such a disregard for human rights cannot go unremarked. The Bulgarian Helsinki Committee has taken a stand on the incident, and will provide mediation between the parties to the dispute, in order to strike a balance between freedom of speech and the right to privacy.„

party gets our support in the elections only after it has agreed to them. There are no political party structures in our neighborhood. Here, as all over the country, the MRF tries to make maximum use of any sort of potential. In one way or another, we have proven ourselves as a community, and we are able to make the Turks listen to us and accommodate us. Before, they tried to attract two or three of us to the MRF cause, but that didn’t work. Our community came together and together we presented our issues and that is when they began to pay attention to us. In the last parliamentary and local elections, we stated our conditions to the MRF, and the Mayor of Zavet, Ahmed Topchu, an ethnic Turk from the MRF, provided a 240 sq. meter municipal building with a big, 120 sq. meter hall, where we hold meetings and concerts, a recreation room, a computer room with 4 computers, and an office for the ”Roma-Zavet 2003” Association. Kadrin Ahmedov, age 24 Youth Activities Coordinator Village of Rakovski, Razgrad Municipality

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Following the Hidden Camera...  

Publication of the journal Obektiv, number 138 of 2007 author Yordanka Bekirska

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