A "Toest" to Bulgaria’s Free Press
LINA KRIVOSHIEVA BELONGS TO THE GENERATION of young Bulgarians born in 1989—the year that saw the collapse of the Iron Curtain unleash an unstoppable wave of change, which swept across Europe and beyond. She’s also part of a small but growing cohort of young Bulgarians who left and then came back.
Initially, Krivoshieva followed her older brother to Berlin to pursue higher education, first enrolling herself in a computer programming degree and later switching to photojournalism in Hanover. She describes her time in Germany as a blur of overwhelming experiences that introduced her to a tremendous amount of new ideas and enriched her understanding of the world. Although she could have easily stayed and made a life for herself there, in 2014 she decided to return to Plovdiv, Bulgaria’s second largest city, which had just won its bid to be the European Capital of Culture for 2019.
After several years of exploring the local scene as a freelance photographer, working on The Plovdiv Project, she joined forces with a team of like-minded individuals, with whom she had bonded over a shared distaste for Bulgaria’s steady descent into a toxic swamp of misinformation. Together, they launched Toest, an online media platform aiming to gain the public’s trust by providing independent, crowdfunded journalism.
An increasing number of journalists contribute to the synergy of the team and readership numbers continue to rise. The pushback has been severe with the recent introduction of a controversial new media law, effectively aimed at silencing small independent publications. So far, it has only managed to unite those publications. Lina is unfazed—“Right from the start, we always knew Toest would not be eternal. We would not be the first, or the last, to go. We remain hopeful our work is paving the way for others to follow and for us that is most important. As for myself, I know that whatever I do in the future, I will not be a passive bystander.”
This article appears in Are We Europe #4: This Is Not An Elections Issue