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BTA Chief: News Should Not Be Treated as Commodity but as Human Right

Bulgarian News Agency (BTA) Director General Kiril Valchev said on Saturday that news should not be treated as a commodity but as a human right. He was speaking during the second day of science readings hosted by Sofia University’s Faculty of Law and dedicated to the 300th birth anniversary of German philosopher Immanuel Kant and the 125th birth anniversary of Bulgarian philosopher and university lecturer Tseko Torbov.
In a panel titled “The Challenges of Information Society”, Valchev presented a thesis on “The Right to Knowledge as a Fundamental Human Right”, which he is currently working on. “I have suggested that access to BTA’s news be made free, contrary to the practice established over its more than 120-year history until then and the pay-only access model adopted by news agencies around the world. Parliament accepted my proposal, which I defended with the simple argument that when fake news is easily and freely available, real news should be equally accessible and free,” Valchev said. This change had to be explained to the community of news agency executives in international organizations of which BTA is a member, because the very existence of these agencies depends on a purely commercial approach to news as a commodity that has to be sold, he added.
“Here I referred to Kant, who puts ‘good will’ before ‘wealth’ and individual natural rights before the right to property. But what is the natural right of man from which, we can assume, the necessity of free access to real news is derived? The answer is the right to knowledge,” Valchev said.
The BTA Director General further noted that if the right to information is derived from the fundamental right to knowledge as is the right to education, this implies that news should not be regarded as a commodity on the market, but as a human right. “Consequently, human societies, or states, as public entities, must secure – including with public money – the institutions responsible for the knowledge of facts, such as the mass communication media, while guaranteeing their independence,” Valchev said. This implies that the media should be treated as schools and cultural institutions that preserve and provide access to national and universal cultural values, he argued.
Otherwise, access to real news would be in serious conflict with the realization of a fundamental human right, tantamount to the right to life being only available to those who pay for it.