In its annual report, Freemuse, a human rights organization based in Kopenhagen that is engaged in defending artistic freedom, warns that artists in Serbia faced strong censorship by the government in 2018.
The State of Artistic Freedom report notes that 80 per cent of the violations of artistic freedom reported in Serbia were linked to politics. The report gives a detailed analysis of 673 cases of violation of artistic freedoms that took place in various cultural segments in 80 countries during 2018.
Freemuse goes on to say that censorship of the arts, which was usually subtle in form, was allegedly done due to “technical and procedural reasons” and “was initiated or implemented by members of the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) which controls most of the political, social and cultural institutions in the country”.
Most of the artists who were submitted to censorship are open critics of the ruling party.
The report said that most artists who experienced censorship openly criticized the ruling party and cited the example of the exhibition by caricaturists Dusan Petricic and Predraga Koraksic which was removed from the library of a small town just outside Belgrade the day after it opened.
The report said that the managers of the theatre festival in Aleksinac cancelled the play The Drowned Soul (Utopljena Dusa) in November, claiming a potential conflict of interests. The lead in that play was supposed to have been played by Sergej Trifunovic, a fierce critic of the authorities. Sergej’s father Toma Trifunovic was the artistic director of the festival but resigned claiming that the play was cancelled because of his son’s criticism of the SNS.
The Belgrade festival Miredita, Dobar Dan (good day in Albanian and Serbian) was held in a very tense atmosphere with right-wing groups protesting what they said was a promotion of Albanian culture in Belgrade, the report says. The Festival was intended to promote links between Serbian and Albanian young people.
Kosovo author and publicist Shkelzen Maliqi was stopped by Serbian police at the border, allegedly for additional checks, and could not attend the June 19 promotion of his book in Belgrade, the Freemuse report also stated.
Also, several theatre artists lost their jobs in 2018, due to their disagreements with the political option in power.
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