A group of members of the US Congress sent a letter to US President Joe Biden, urging him to consider imposing sanctions on those destabilising the Western Balkans and to “continue to engage the Serbian government about rooting out corruption.”
“We are deeply concerned about the current humanitarian and political situation in Serbia and the impact it may have on the Western Balkan region and Europe as a whole,” the letter says.
“As you said during an August 2016 visit to Belgrade, Serbia, “it is overwhelmingly in the self-interest of the United States of America for the people of Serbia to be able to grow and prosper.” Therefore, we encourage your administration to engage with President Aleksandar Vucic to combat corruption and attacks on freedom of the press, both of which are critical to a prosperous and democratic Serbia and to its European Union aspirations,” it said.
They called on Biden to “consider using Executive Order 14033, “Blocking Property and Suspending Entry Into the United States of Certain Persons Contributing to the Destabilizing Situation in the Western Balkans,” where appropriate to push for a more transparent and accountable Serbian government that respects democracies, human rights, and the rule of law.”
They described freedom of the press as “not only a critical American value enshrined in the United States Constitution but is also important to U.S. foreign policy and to pushing back against authoritarianism around the world.”
Freedom of the press “has reached a new low point in Serbia,” the letter says, quoting an assessment by Reporters Without Borders – “Serbia is a country where journalists are subjected to almost daily attacks that increasingly come from the ruling elite and pro-government media.”
“It is also clear that pro-government media outlets are prospering and are in a mutually beneficial relationship with the government,” they added.
The letter was signed by Raja Krishnamoorthi, Ritchie Torres, David N. Cicilline, Jan Schakowsky, James P. McGovern and Mike Quigley.
They stated one “egregious example” – RTV Pink, the largest private broadcaster in Serbia – noting that it received at least 7 million euros in government loans between 2014 and 2016.
“The next year, when President Vucic ran for President, RTV Pink provided significantly more airtime to his campaign than all other opponents combined,” they noted. The congress members also argued that “the dealings of majority-state-owned network Telekom are shrouded in secrecy.”
“The appearance of an agreement or arrangement between the government and media harms democratic norms, silences critics, and empowers corrupt individuals. We encourage your administration to work with President Vucic and others to allow all sources of media to prosper and cover news in an equitable, unbiased manner,” they underlined.
This post is also available in: Italiano