Employee Reinstated in Bulgaria Following Civil Society Protests

by Coalition staff

SOFIA – One of two employees fired from Sofia’s National Art Gallery for criticizing government policy has been reinstated following large demonstrations and public calls for Bulgaria’s Culture Minister to resign.

Vladimir Rumenov and Maria Vasileva were dismissed on 1 July, the day after appearing on Bulgarian National Television (BNT) and speaking against new legislation on cultural heritage. Rumenov’s employment rights were restored after a large protest was staged in front of the Ministry of Culture building on July 7. This was followed by an open letter signed by 200 people to Prime Minister Boyko Borisov demanding the resignation of the Culture Minister Vezhdi Rashidov.

As the protest was underway, Rashidov held a press conference to deny any involvement in the Rumenov’s dismissal. In an effort to deflect criticism, Rashidov asked the gallery director to rehire Rumenov and apologized for his “emotional” reaction.

The director denied the dismissals were related to the two employees’ remarks on television. Rumenov, who has worked at the gallery for 38 years, officially was fired because of a new requirement for people in his and similar positions to have university degrees. The fact that some co-workers without degrees were permitted to keep their jobs led protesters to link his dismissal to his public statements.

The Association of European Journalists also demanded Rashidov’s removal after the Minister dressed down the host of BNT’s arts and culture show for “deriding the state all the time.” The journalism group accused Rashidov of giving “instructions” to journalists and applying “direct political pressure” and “intimidation” on the media.

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