Serbia ranks 16th, between Afghanistan and Myanmar, on the list of countries in which a drastic decline in liberties over the past 10 years, but it is still considered a partly free country, said Freedom House in its Report entitled ’Marking 50 Years in the Struggle for Democracy.’
Looking at the state of liberties in the world in 2022, Kosovo is still partly free, but has improved by four points in 2022, and is ranked in the Report between Kenya and Slovenia, reported Voice of America (VOA).
On the list of countries from the region, Bosnia and Herzegovina is ranked 31st, with minus 10 points, between Russia and India.
Serbia is a parliamentary democracy with competitive multiparty elections, but in recent years the ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) has steadily eroded political rights and civil liberties, putting pressure on independent media, the political opposition, and civil society organizations, reads the report.
Freedom House said that numerous infringements on freedom of assembly occurred in 2022, including the forcible repression of activist gatherings and protests by private security agencies and masked individuals allegedly linked to the government. In August, Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić announced that EuroPride—an international LGBT+ rights event set to be held in Belgrade in September—had been cancelled, due in part to “threats from right-wing groups.” Despite the ban, thousands of LGBT+ activists participated in an unofficial EuroPride march, said Freedom House.
The election campaign was characterized by media bias and allegations of misuse of public resources. Serbia’s score declined from 3 to 2 because of undue electoral advantages afforded to the ruling party, including significant media bias and misuse of public resources, said the Report. Observers reported numerous irregularities during the campaign and on election day.
The report adds that the ruling parties have a widespread media representation in public broadcasters. In the end, the fifth national broadcasting frequency was not allocated, which is why the two TV channels that did not receive a license, N1 and Nova S, staged a temporary protest by shutting down their programmes.
Slobodan Ćirić, vice president of the Association of Journalists of Serbia (UNS), comments on the pressures and threats journalists are exposed to every day:
“Every day we are forced to react and stand up for the protection of media workers and all this shows that Serbia cannot boast of being a bastion of media freedom. When you add to this the extremely poor financial standing of the vast majority of journalists who work for meagre salaries, fearing that they too may lose them, and as a result, out of fear, resort to self-censorship, then it is clear that the ratings from the Freedom House report are not a surprise”.
Freedom House also states that some privately owned broadcasters and tabloids participate in smear campaigns against the opposition or government rivals.
Journalists also face physical attacks, defamation, online harassment and frequent tax inspections. Foreign and domestic non-governmental organizations generally work freely, but those that take a critical stance towards the government face threats and harassment, the report states.
(Danas, N1, 09.03.2023)
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