Bulgaria outcry over political revenge porn

Borislav Ignatov Image copyright Borislav Ignatov/Facebook
Image caption Sofia mayoral candidate Borislav Ignatov described the publication as a "monstrous attack"

The publication last week of explicit images of the girlfriend of a mayoral candidate in the Bulgarian capital has triggered an avalanche of anger in media circles, as well as in wider society. 

The target of the tabloid PIK News site was Borislav Ignatov, who's running for mayor of Sofia in the 27 October local elections.

Since the images were released, journalists and media organisations - led by the Association of European Journalists Bulgaria - have rallied against the website, urging those in power to boycott such media outlets that engage in unethical journalism.

More than 20 media sites have posted a declaration entitled "Today is the day", demanding higher ethical standards from journalists.

The Bulgarian president, Rumen Radev, has also issued a statement taking a swipe at politicians and parties who publicly condemn this "ugly" practice while at the same time legitimising the perpetrators through their support and patronage.

'I will not give up'

In a heartfelt post on Facebook, the mayoral candidate called the publication of the images a "monstrous attack".

Mr Ignatov, who is from the centre-right coalition Democratic Bulgaria, denied the claim made by PIK that the images were from a porn site and explained that they are personal images taken by a former partner.

"But I will not give up," he wrote, "on the contrary - I will carry on the campaign with more determination… I stand by my girl and I love her."

Image copyright PIK News
Image caption The PIK news site has been widely condemned for the publication of the images

The PIK news site has remained defiant in the face of the chorus of outrage, which has given birth to the hashtag in Bulgarian #NoPornJournalism. The tabloid has produced a lengthy tirade against its critics, branding them "laymen, jesters and scoundrels".

It insists the images are in the public interest and so they remain online where they continue to attract clicks.

The site argues that the voters need to know about the existence of such images, as they would put Mr Ignatov in a vulnerable position where he could be manipulated and blackmailed, should he become mayor. 

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The tabloid site has often been accused of using defamation and slander to sway public opinion and please its political masters.  The site has been ordered by the courts to pay compensation to several individuals and companies over the last few years.

But the latest publication seems to have pushed Bulgarians' tolerance towards "unhygienic" journalism to breaking point.

Irina Nedeva, chair of the Association of European Journalists Bulgaria, told the BBC that it ups the ante as it's an attack on democracy itself. 

"This is different from anything we've seen before. For the very first time, a candidate in a political election process, which is crucial for democracy, has been attacked and has been asked to withdraw from the political campaign."

Following the "unprecedented" rebuff against the publication of the images, several political parties have announced that they will exclude the PIK online agency from their election campaign. Prime Minister Boyko Borisov confirmed this would be the case with his GERB party.

Reporting by Krassi Twigg

BBC Monitoring reports and analyses news from TV, radio, web and print media around the world. You can follow BBC Monitoring on Twitter and Facebook.