Pavel Valnev (@PValnev) is Co-Founder and Deputy Chairman of the Republicans for Bulgaria political party, which promotes Western values in Bulgaria, ending endemic corruption, making Bulgaria a more active contributor to the EU and NATO, and countering Russian and Chinese malign influence throughout Europe. He and his brother Rumen are Bulgarian-American entrepreneurs who own a freight transportation business in Chicago, IL, which they built from scratch in a highly competitive environment. A strong believer in the importance of a stable, prosperous, and democratic Balkans, Mr. Valnev has made strategic investments in various countries in Southeast Europe in order to further regional integration and prepare their economies for full membership in the European Union. His firms have remained commercially inactive in Bulgaria and Mr. Valnev’s only initiative in Bulgaria to date has been the founding and operation of Bulgaria International Television (BiT), which was an independent television station that broadcast simultaneously from Chicago, IL, and Sofia, Bulgaria, from 2013 until 2018.
BiT was permanently closed because of the severe challenges associated with media freedom in Bulgaria, which is ranked 111th in the world by Reporters without Borders, behind all of its neighbors and on par with many countries that Freedom House defines as non-democratic. Operating from the United States and on the basis of Western media standards, BiT’s mission was to bring objective and independent coverage to Bulgaria’s centralized and often corrupt media landscape.
Despite this environment, BiT was able to rank fourth in terms of viewer trust, competing successfully with oligarchic and Russian-backed media, as well as outlets that receive billions of levs of support from the state budget. Quickly recognizing BiT as a threat to the status quo, the political-advertising cartel in Bulgaria moved quickly to starve BiT of advertising revenues. Mr. Valnev refused to compromise its independent editorial policies and opted to close BIT in early 2018 rather than see it transformed into a tool suppressing media freedom and democratic development in Bulgaria.