Censorship is on the rise in Serbia. A number of recent government attacks on the central European country’s free press suggest that its upcoming election may be one of its most important to preserve Serbians’ most fundamental rights.
The first case that gained significant attention a few months back was a blog written by a BBC journalist Dušan Mašic discussing the worsening state of journalism in Serbia. Mašic reported how the popular tabloid Kurir wrote an article intentionally aimed at intentionally stirring public outrage. Kurir accused the parents of a recently deceased child of embezzling money they collected through charitable donations for an expensive surgery not covered by state health insurance. Kurir made the outrageous claim without any evidence, and it was proven to be false in days to follow. Mašic’s expose of the tabloid’s propaganda was removed from one of Serbia most prominent new outlets, B92, quickly after publication. Considering B92 has a reputation of being an opposition media source, having played an important role in the battle against former President Slobodan Miloševic in the early 90s, the paper’s shocking withdrawal of Mašic’s article is a sign that the Serbian press is under fierce government pressure.
Quickly thereafter, the Serbian online community started to notice an increase in self-censorship of opposition articles, very likely caused by pressures coming from the government. Not long after that, the authors of a popular radio show called Razgibavanje belonging to the same company, B92, were told not to come to work as they planned on discussing the First Deputy Prime Minister and the ruling party’s president, Aleksandar Vucic.
Soon after, another national scandal erupted in which the Minister of the Economy, Saša Radulovic, resigned after failing to pass a much-needed labour law reform law. Over the last few days of Radulovic’s time in the office, it became apparent that Radulovic saw Vucic as the main opponent to the reforms. As such, the media under pressure from the government amped up their efforts to highlight him as the enemy of the state. Media sources previously supportive of the current regime such as beforementioned Kurir and a popular daily called Blic started conjuring up stories to demonize the minister, from illegal activities to not treating his drivers in a professional manner to subtly implying he is beating his daughter.
Aleksandar is an Advocate for Young Voices and International Outreach Director for Libek, a Serbian think tank. Aleksander is pursuing a Bachelors degree in Political Science at the University of Belgrade. A native of Serbia, Aleksander speaks regularly at events across the globe.