Freedom House report – Serbia slid from democracy into autocracy

In the latest Freedom House ‘Nations in Transit’ report, for the fourth year in a row, Serbia was not classified as a democracy but as a “transitional or hybrid regime” in which the democratic institutions are fragile and there are significant challenges in the protection of political rights and civil liberties.

Serbia’s democracy score, which the Freedom House report measures on a scale of 1 to 7, has not changed since last year when it had the biggest decline and stands at 3.79.

Serbia is now a society in which the rule of law is strengthening and it has come to a point in which murderers of journalists will be brought to justice, and that is certainly an achievement, US Ambassador to Belgrade Christopher Hill said Tuesday, commenting on the case of the murder of journalist Slavko Curuvija, which, he added, shows just how much Serbia has progressed in recent years.

On the other hand, data from numerous organizations monitoring rights and freedoms around the world do not support Hill’s assessment of Serbia’s progress in the area of the rule of law.

When the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) came to power in 2012, Serbia’s average score on the Freedom House scale was 4.36. In this non-governmental organization’s annual report on political rights and freedoms Serbia was classified as a free country.

In the meantime, Serbia lost the status of a free country and is now, according to Freedom House, in the category of partly free countries due to the worsening conditions under which elections are held but also because of the attacks on independent journalists.

In the past eight years, this international organization did not record progress in any of the seven areas it monitors, but only regression – since the SNS came to power Serbia’s score in those seven areas was revised as many as ten times, and each time it was lowered.

For the first time since 2003, Serbia is not a democratic state – this is the conclusion of the ‘Nations in Transit’ report, a document in which Freedom House explored and described the way of governance in 29 states of the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.

In the report for 2020, Serbia and Montenegro were in the category of “transitional or hybrid regimes.” In such regimes, power is based on authoritarianism as a consequence of incomplete democratic change.

Serbia has also regressed in the area of media freedom, so in this year’s Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index report it is ranked 91st, falling from last year’s 79th place. On this same list Serbia was ranked 67th in 2014 and 54th a year earlier.

The report said that Serbia’s legal framework was solid, but that journalists are threatened by political pressures. It noted that the pro-government media were spreading Russian propaganda and that Serbia has the greatest drop in rating in the region of the European Union (EU) and Balkans, one of 12 points.

Serbia’s ranking has dropped also on the most important global ranking of countries on the corruption perception index (CPI) – it has an index of 36 out of 100 and is ranked 101st.

In the past two years, Serbia’s CPI index was 38, and it was ranked 94th and 96th on the list published by Transparency International. Its score this year is the worst in the past 11 years.

Serbia’s index is seven points below the world average. Of the countries in the region only Bosnia and Herzegovina has scored worse, with 34 points, while Albania shares 101st place with Serbia.

The report also notes that Serbia is in the category of countries in which democracy has not progressed in the past ten years and a country that has dropped two categories – turning from a liberal democracy to an electoral autocracy.

(BBC Serbia, N1, 25.05.2023)

This post is also available in: Italiano

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