According to a US State Department report on the state of human rights in Serbia last year, Serbia faced a number of human rights challenges in 2021 and the Serbian government did implement certain measures to identify, investigate, prosecute and punish officials responsible for human rights violations after abuses were exposed to the public.
The State Department report quotes relevant observers who believe that numerous cases of corruption, social and domestic violence, attacks on civil society and other abuses in Serbia go unreported and unpunished. The State Department points to “serious restrictions on freedom of expression and the media, including violence, threats, arbitrary arrests and prosecution of journalists, as well as numerous acts of serious corruption in the government”.
The document adds that there have been criminal acts including violence or threats of violence against persons with disabilities, as well as violence against the LGBTQI population. The State Department recalls in the assessment that the non-governmental organisation Freedom House has marked Serbia as a “hybrid regime” and “a state where the state of fundamental freedoms and democratic institutions has continued to deteriorate with no signs of improvement”.
The report also cites the 2021 conclusion of the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) organisation that ‘Serbia is a country made up of weak institutions’ and at the same time is prey to fake news that ‘spreads sensationalist media with the support of the government’. It also states that the Serbian authorities ‘have used the pandemic to restrict media freedom’ and that tabloids ‘have continued to be a popular and powerful channel of disinformation’.
The document further cites the data from the Independent Association of Journalists of Serbia, which reported 95 recorded attacks against journalists in 2021. The report additionally states that in 2021, government representatives received much more media space than opposition politicians and that most media outlets openly sided with the government, as well as that the President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vučić, was positively reported about in 85 per cent of media coverage.
The document also quotes data from the non-governmental organisation CRTA, according to which 65% of people in Serbia believe that corruption is very pronounced in the country and that the state is ineffective in the fight against corruption. It also states that political pressure on the judiciary is still worrying and that there is pressure from the government on organizations and individuals that criticize the judiciary.
The report concludes that “government officials and members of parliament have continued to comment publicly on ongoing investigations, prosecutions or the work of individual judges and prosecutors”.
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