From a normative standpoint the media are usually seen as one of the pillars of a national integrity system, entrusted with the tasks of exposing and preventing acts of corruption and educating the public of the harm caused by corruption. Nevertheless, corruption continues to be one of the most significant challenges that Europe faces, undermining citizens' trust in democratic institutions and weakening the accountability of political leadership. Evidence suggests that in fragile EU democracies such as Bulgaria, despite more than eight years of full membership and numerous preventive measures, corruption is rife and the press is hardly capable of exposing abuses of power or authority. On the contrary - drawing on in-depth interviews with 35 Bulgarian journalists - this paper argues that since communism collapsed in the late 1980s the media in post-communist societies such as Bulgaria has gradually become an instrument to promote and defend private vested interests, and is plagued by corruption. Senior journalists and editors cast serious doubt over the ability of the post-communist free press and journalism to act as a watchdog for society.

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