BlueLink at APC Annual Meeting 2019

BueLink is participating in the 2019 Members Meeting of the Association for Progressive Communications, in line with our commitment to APC’s mission and global internet rights, particularly related to gender rights and the Developing World.

The meeting, which takes place online on September 2 - 18, 2019, gathers over 50 APC members from around the globe to cooperate for easy and affordable access to a free and open internet, which improves people’s lives and creates a more just world. BlueLink is the Bulgarian member of APC since 2000. The meeting is an opportunity to assess BlueLink’s work during 2019 and share it with fellow APC members.

Since December BlueLink completed with APC’s support an analysis of online pressure against civil society activists in Bulgaria. This is an essential part of BlueLink's current commitment to aid progressive and democratic activists and their organisations against raising legal and media pressure across the EU and neighbouring countries.

We are now building upon this work with deeper research of gender-based violence online, also supported by APC’s Femminist Internet Research Network. This is in relation to rising intolerance and aggression against gender minorities including women, which dominate mass media and penetrate into everyday mass media, political and even government communications. Our purpose is to identify practical steps, methods and ways forward for battleground organisations and institutions to continue counteracting against gender-based violence in spite of the Bulgarian Constitutional Court's controversial ruling against ratifying the CoE's Istanbul Convention.

In February we held a workshop in St Petersburg with Bellona, where we helped Russian and European activists and journalists exchange information and coordinate action against toxic waste. We also support citizen organisations in areas affected by extractive industries in Albania. In Bulgaria BlueLink is supporting access to justice and participation in decision making on environmental matters, partnering with the UNECE Aarhus Convention and European Justice and Environment network.

We studied sponsorship practices of tobacco industry in Bulgaria and presented findings at a European conference in Bucharest.  While home-grown tobacco oligarchs control most of the media and government here, Western tobacco giants are sponsoring charity and media activities, including ones which relate to public health decision making.  Based on our research the WHO and Bulgaria's anti-tobacco NGOs coalition initiated a memorandum against tobacco sponsorship, advertising and promotion, and calling for compliance with the WHO's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).

This brought us to a global issue regarding internet governance: it turns out that large tobacco companies are using the internet to circumvent the FCTC and European laws which ban transborder advertising, promotion and sales of tobacco. We teamed up with a 2 EU commissions, a global advocacy network and the WHO to propose a workshop on this to this year's IGF. Unfortunately it was rejected, but we are determined to pursue this line of action an analysis further.
Mostly thanks to APC’s member in Catalunia Pangea, Dr Pavel Antonov spoke at the APC's workshop on Environmental Sustainability at the Tunis RightsCom. We found this a very useful participation, and were impressed with the scale and scope of RightsCon, so we shall try to follow up in the future.

All these activities are feeding BlueLink's persistent commitment to watchdog journalism. They allow our European network of journalists to keep filing stories on the under-reported issues we engage with. See our English Language e-magazine BlueLink Stories at www.bluelink.info.  We remain available for partnership and know-how exchange globally, and particularly with our parters from the Global South.

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