Dear friends to freedom from all over the world,

This is an alert message about a recent attempt of the Bulgarian authorities to put the Internet in Bulgaria under bureaucratic control. We need the support of the democratic world.

Free Information & Civic Participation Societies, Bulgaria

ACTION ALERT

Bureaucratic assault on the Internet

On Dec. 18, 1998, the chief of the Committee for Post and Telecommunications (CPT) has signed a "List of telecommunication services which are to be licensed". The List was silently placed as a draft at the site of CPT and ten days later - on Dec. 29. 1998 - was published in the State Gazette as final decision. In Section II ("General licences") of that List the Internet Service Providers were included as liable to "general licensing" which as regulated by Chapter V, section 5, Articles 75-80 of the Telecommunications Act (TA) puts them under excessive bureaucratic control: the licensee has to register with a State Commission for Telecommunications (SCT) and to follow a number of ambiguous requirements already set in TA (Art.78) and further (to be) specified by the SCT. The SCT can terminate the registration of any provider (Art.80 of TA) if it only considers that the requirements (set partially by itself) were not met. So actually a legal provision is created allowing a state administrative body to arbitrarily restrict and eliminate Internet providers from the market.

There is no legal basis justifying the decision of the Telecom boss to include the Internet providing services in the list for general licensing. The chief of CPT is acting as a legislative authority regulating matters that are beyond his prerogatives. The very procedure of semi-secret promulgating of that List without previous discussion on the eve of Christmas and New Year holidays (after experiencing a heated reaction to a previous attempt of that kind in the spring of 1998) is quite indicative of the sly oriental nature of some Bulgarian bureaucrats. They have played a fait accompli game to the Bulgarian public making irrelevant the discussion about the inclusion of Internet providers in the List of services liable to general licensing.

Restrictions to Internet access are not a Bulgarian invention but they are predominantly an Asian occurrence. So in China local ISPs must register, in Singapore Internet is regulated as the broadcasting media (tv, radio), and web sites with religious and political contents must register with the government. In Vietnam and Saudi Arabia there's only one - state owned ISP. In India the prices for leased lines are restrictively high.

The Bulgarian authorities are obviously taking the road to Asia instead of that to Europe without consulting us - the Bulgarian citizens.

RECOMMENDED ACTION:

Send the following or your own appeal to the Bulgarian authorities listed bellow and resend it to the Bulgarian Information Agency at root@bta.bg (fax: 00359-2-802428)

The regime of licensing of Internet providers in Bulgaria as enacted by an order of a sub-governmental Committee (the Order of the President of the Committee for Post and Telecommunications of Dec.18, 1998) and the provisions of the Telecommunications Act (Art.76-80) constitutes a serious restriction to freedom of information. The way in which that change has been installed infringes the rule of law principle since the regulation of an issue of highest significance has been delegated to an executive authority. The public opinion has been ignored - the citizenry has neither been consulted nor adequately informed about official intentions.

Such policies exhibit a fear of truth and free communication and neglect the basic democratic principles of freedom of information and rule of law.

We appeal to the Bulgarian authorities to revoke that recent act of departure from democracy and to open for dialogue to the Bulgarian public in designing and implementing democratic reforms in Bulgaria.

SEND APPEALS TO:

Mr.Petar Stoyanov

President of Republic of Bulgaria

E-mail: president@president.bg

Council of Ministers of Republic of Bulgaria

Fax: 00359-2-981-81-70

Mr.Antoni Slavinski, The President of the Committee for Post and Telecommunications

E-mail: aslavinski@cpt.bg

Bulgarian Information Agency

root@bta.bg

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