The first and last lesson in journalism is to remain faithful to ethics, morality, and facts, as they are

In 2023, the renowned Bulgarian journalist Maya Lyubomirska celebrated a happy anniversary. In May, the month she was born, she recounted her "70 orbits around the Sun" to her dearest ones – family, close friends, colleagues, at the Contrast Gallery in Sofia. With her inherent erudition and refined elegance, this sunny woman presented her book about her life and accomplishments so far, delicately sharing key moments in it. Such as the fact that she comes from a family of doctors but chooses to heal not bodies but souls, becoming a journalist.

She graduated with a degree in Bulgarian Philology and a Master's degree in Journalism from Sofia University "St. Kliment Ohridski". After 10 years of working at the Sofia bureau of Radio Free Europe as a reporter and presenter, she created her own political program called "In the Epicenter" on Radio Express. She is an observer and analyst for newspapers such as "Demokratsiya", "Demokratsiya Dnes", "Novinar", and "Monitor". She worked as the chief of staff for the first democratically elected Prime Minister of the Republic of Bulgaria, Filip Dimitrov.

33 from her 70 orbits around the Sun, Maya Lyubomirska has the happiness to share with the love of her life, her husband - the great Bulgarian francophone, educator, and person, Ivan Krastev.

Currently, she is a contributor to the website and the editor of the website of the Union of Bulgarian Journalists,

At the premiere of her book, Maya Lyubomirska was awarded the "Golden Feather" prize by the Union of Bulgarian Journalists as recognition for her professionalism and creativity over the years.

- Mrs. Lyubomirska, your book "70 Orbits Around the Sun", which raises exceptionally important questions about our present time, begins as a tale about... "a little Girl", who "appeared in the world on a very sunny and rain-soaked May day". With the first breaths of air, she inhales the first values ​​and thus begins her first orbit around the Sun. What were these values? And where did you take them from - the Polish princes Lyubomirski or from the Hungarian aristocrats Toroman?

- Before we begin the interview, Ms. Pavlova, I would like to wish you, your family, your loved ones, as well as the editors and contributors of the respected magazine "Diplomatic Spectrum", which, if I'm not mistaken, has been meeting thousands of readers worldwide and in Bulgaria for 9 years now, a very happy new year of 2024! I sincerely wish health, creative inspiration, and peace to all people around the world, peace that we need the most in our rapidly changing world.

And now to your question: Do you know, when I think about the premiere of my book "70 Orbits Around the Sun", I feel both joy and a lot of sorrow and sadness. Joy, because at the premiere, my husband Ivan Krastev and I gathered with the people we love and have been together with for years - family, friends, loved ones, respected colleagues, as well as highly erudite journalists, teachers, professors. It was a celebration not only for me but also for my husband Ivan Krastev, who, although ill for years, never ceased to enjoy not only care and attention from my side but also constant meetings with family and friends. We were always together - for 33 years - with the exception of about a week during all these years when work obligations separated us.

And at the same time, when I remember the premiere of my book, tears start flowing because just 4 days after it, my great love Ivan Krastev passed away, even managing on his deathbed to tell me for the last time that he loves me and that I was his greatest and final love…

I'm sorry, that was a digression for which I ask for your forgiveness, as I'm sharing something very personal, very sacred.

But this is part of my response to your question about values. Yes - for me, the greatest value is family and homeland. The love and respect with which a family is built, I've imbibed since infancy, from my loving mother and father. They, as well as my grandparents, are examples for me even today. And the love for the homeland comes from both sides. That of my father, whose roots trace back to the Polish princes Lyubomirski, a mighty family that received its princely title as early as the 17th century from the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, Ferdinand III, and whose cause is freedom and independence.

And from my mother's side - the Austro-Hungarian aristocrats Toroman. According to historical sources cited by the renowned historian Haralampiy Oroshakov, in the early years following Bulgaria's fall under Ottoman-Turkish rule, specifically in 1394, a waqf was established in the region of Koprivshtitsa, rightfully named the "Princely Aristocratic Republic." These are my distant ancestors, the predecessors of the Toroman lineage, one of whom is my great-grandfather Pavel (Pancho) Toromanov, a volunteer at Shipka from the Third Volunteer Company, awarded the "Order of Bravery" and, due to his advanced age, escorted by his comrades to the summit of Mount St. Nicholas for the celebrations marking the opening of the Shipka Monument. My roots obligate me to preserve and pass on these values to the generations that follow.

And it is precisely for this reason that I began to write my new book, in which I will not only tell the history of our lineages but also hope - with God's help - to narrate about all the moral virtues that we have carried through the centuries, virtues that have preserved us as a nation and as the oldest state in Europe, which has not changed its name and whose flag has never fallen into enemy hands or been captured. And I hope that in time, we will have the pleasure to discuss my next book, the initial pages of which are already on the computer.

- With each orbit, you carry your values within you and defend them as a person and journalist, weaving them into your hundreds of articles, analyses, comments, interviews. How did you manage to preserve them in this confusing, aggressive, censored society, and particularly in the journalistic environment?

- Here is the place to say that "70 Orbits Around the Sun" is a message to the journalistic community, to current and future journalists. That was my goal. And it's not by chance that professors from the Faculty of Journalism and Mass Communication invite me to speak to their students. We - the current journalists, and they - the future ones, have something to say to each other because my concern for the state of the media and journalism increases with each passing day.

But let's first talk about the moral and ethical standards that we uphold and must uphold every day. And which, with particular strength, oblige us to defend them in our profession as journalists.

You know, we can learn to write or report, or take good materials. Yes, we will learn to attend events and cover them, rather than offering Copy/Paste. We can learn to analyze the facts and comment on them. But if we don't learn to adhere to ethical rules and laws, we won't have done our job. We can be quick, we can be first in reporting the news, but we won't be true journalists if we skip ethics and morality. Perhaps this is one of the lessons in the profession. And perhaps even this is the First and Last lesson in journalism – to remain faithful to ethics, morality, and facts, as they are.

- The first part of your book, titled "Commentaries", is an exceptional testament to your high level of professionalism and erudition. In it, you emphasize the painful topic - freedom of speech. Will we, journalists, ever achieve it?

- "Freedom, Sancho, is at the top of the lance!", wrote Cervantes. And in our case, it's at the top of the pen, and now - the keyboard. Freedom of speech and censorship are two sides of the same coin, the coin of information, but also the coin of the journalist's conscience. We have reason to worry about this because attempts at censorship will never cease. As long as there are states and as long as there is journalism, there will be attempts to close our eyes, mouths, and hands. Censorship transforms and evolves along with the development of society. But the media ecosystem also evolves. Just a few years ago - before social media existed - those in power could try to censor journalists, and it might not be clear to society. Or even if it became clear - it would be to a limited circle of people, or too late. Today, it's not the same. If someone tries to censor, they will immediately be exposed by social media. That's why censorship begins to take on other dimensions, changes, and mimics. And that's dangerous.

I'll give you an example with myself, as uncomfortable as it may be. And this example is one of many attempts to censor me. In the distant 1990s, during the hunger strike of the 39 deputies from the Union of Democratic Forces (SDS) against the adoption of the Constitution of Bulgaria by the Seventh Grand National Assembly, a constitution that is still debated today, I covered this strike as a reporter for a capital newspaper. In one of the issues, the editor-in-chief of the newspaper added information under my name, making it misinformation. At that time, there was no way for society to learn about it. But there was a way for me to preserve my conscience and my name. So, the next day, I submitted a request and left the newspaper. Despite attempts to detain me. I deliberately do not mention names. They are not important. This is just an example of how one can act.

My concern is that propaganda has gained the upper hand over journalism, and I hope we are not the last Mohicans of journalism. But we can discuss this another time. As well as the reasons why journalists are increasingly turning to public relations…

- Where is the "Border of Dignity", as you've named one of your comments, for a journalist?

- Yes, this is one of the new faces of censorship – attempts to trap us in the snare of Unfreedom and limited opportunities, trying to fence us in with terminology like "political correctness", as mentioned in my comment. If the journalist lacks the dignity that has made a slave into a free citizen, to expose the facts with their true names, without using ephemeral expressions that distort reality, the trap can easily snap.

Notice what's happening. Gallic predecessors of the French people are being removed from history textbooks in France. Again, because of this so-called political correctness - not to offend the feelings of migrants. In another case, classic works of culture are being edited, removing the word "negro", erasing stories about Indians - the indigenous population of the United States. Yet, this doesn't stop creators with a vigilant conscience from reminding us of the true facts from history to this day. The latest example of this is Martin Scorsese's film "Killers of the Flower Moon", which grabbed numerous prestigious awards this year.

Now, we are expecting the Act on Media Freedom to be finally adopted by the member states of the European Union in the spring. This act is very important, we can call it a law, both for society and for us, journalists. Let's talk with examples. The French government, through its Euro-deputies, insisted until the last moment in this Media Act to include a text that allows journalists to be wiretapped and recorded, as well as to be obliged to disclose their sources for the sake of, as it was said, "national security." It is a success of the European Commission and all those who have been working for years on this bill that they managed to overcome this request from France. And such a text is no longer present in the Act on Media Freedom. Because if a journalist reveals his source, where then is his immunity, his dignity? Of course, threats of terrorism should not be underestimated. But here again we are talking about that thin line that should not be crossed.

- Another piece of yours, "The Testaments of Herbs", ends with the question "Do we now have the strength as a guild to follow Herbs' example?" You are an editor on the website of the Union of Bulgarian Journalists. What are your observations - do we have it?

- The short answer is that we strive not to forget the testaments of Herbs. We strive daily. And each one of us can answer for themselves whether they succeed. The most important testament of Herbs is morality.

Here I would like to use the opportunity to say that the website of the Union of Bulgarian Journalists has developed significantly in recent years. It has become a daily source of information on journalism and the media, culture, and education both in Bulgaria and in Europe and the world. On the pages of our website, we showcase accomplished colleagues, we don't forget our teachers - the founders of journalism in Bulgaria, we don't miss valuable cultural or educational events. We have expanded the range of news and information, from interviews and portraits of significant figures. And we have succeeded in achieving - in my opinion - one of the most important characteristics of journalistic texts today - to present the news in the context of development, to remind what preceded a given event and what consequences it entails. This is very important in today's information jungle, where information and misinformation, news and fake news, media and social networks, natural and artificial intelligence intertwine - an ecosystem in which the audience can get lost. And it shouldn't.

- The second part of your book - "Interviews" - is also related to your profession. Among the hundreds of interviews you have conducted, you have selected those with famous Bulgarian journalists. Why?

- Yes, indeed, this is just a part of the hundreds of interviews I have conducted over the years. I chose several from the last year before the book was published. They are with significant figures who have something important to say. Among them are the Director-General of Bulgarian National Radio, Milen Mitev, the Chairperson of the Council for Electronic Media, Sonya Momchilova, the world-renowned cartoonist Plantu and his equally talented colleague Ivaylo Tsvetkov, the renowned international journalist and beloved professor Simeon Vasilev, and the great Bulgarian writer Iliya Troyanov. Most of them I have known for years, but that's not the important part. What's important is that they have something valuable to share with their colleagues and with me as a journalist myself.

The interview is a special form of communication. It's a very fruitful one. An interview is like psychoanalysis; if you're skilled and prepared, it allows you to draw out deep and valuable thoughts from the interviewee. It enables you to present their philosophy, their understanding of life, and how they cope with challenges.

The interview itself is a challenge for the journalist.

Indeed, conducting a successful interview requires thorough preparation. You cannot rely solely on the initial results from Google. Both the interviewer and the interviewee may struggle if one is unprepared. The interviewee may have valuable insights to share, but if the interviewer doesn't know what to ask, it can result in a disjointed conversation. This can lead to missed opportunities and a lack of meaningful exchange. Conducting such interviews earned us the "fame" of being ineffective or unprofessional.

- I would like to conclude the interview with the quote from Leonardo da Vinci on the first cover of your book: "Blinding ignorance does mislead us. O! Wretched mortals, open your eyes!!"... Your comment?

- The great minds are immortal because what they said centuries ago still seems as if it were spoken for today. Yes, we are wretched mortals, blinded by ignorance, and it's high time we opened our eyes. Let's hope we succeed…

Photos: Personal archive of Maya Lyubomirska