Serbia

KRIK investigative portal found “guilty” in a SLAPP; targeting of environmental defenders continues

The Basic Public Prosecutor's Office in Novi Sad launched an investigation against 12 people who participated in the protests against the adoption of the General Urban Plan, which took place in July 2022. The Crime and Corruption Research Network (KRIK) was found guilty in a SLAPP case initiated by the former Head of the Security Intelligence Agency, now Minister of Internal Affairs, Bratislav Gašić. There were several smear campaigns against journalists and obstruction of their work. Read more

KRIK investigative portal found “guilty” in a SLAPP; targeting of environmental defenders continues

Environmental rights protests & activists continue to come under attack

On 23rd October 2022, environmental activists protested the planned construction of a new bridge in Novi Sad, claiming that it will devastate the last green oasis in this city. They gathered in Šodroš but were met with a strong police presence. Following clashes with police units, activists were detained and suffered serious injuries. Protesters were not only met with a large police presence but were also publicly vilified by politicians who discredited and insulted them. Additionally, environmental rights activists were also targeted during this period. On 21st September 2022, environmental activist Miroslav Perović from Kosjerić, Central Serbia, was beaten in front of his building. Read more

Environmental rights protests & activists continue to come under attack

On the watchlist: LGBTQI+ EuroPride goes ahead at the last minute as journalists and LGBTQI+ activists attacked

On 22nd September Serbia was added to the CIVICUS Monitor watchlist due to a rapid decline in civic freedoms, with concerns about the government’s attempts to ban the LGBTQI+ EuroPride march event. The government’s last-minute decisions regarding the march have prevented LGBTQI+ persons from fully exercising their right to peaceful assembly and created an environment for further hateful rhetoric and violence. Additionally, there are concerns over the ongoing targeting of environmental defenders during protests, and attacks against journalists.

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On the watchlist: LGBTQI+ EuroPride goes ahead at the last minute as journalists and LGBTQI+ activists attacked

Labour unions face pressure; mounting attacks on journalists and activists

Several associations were targeted including the non-profit organisation "Women for Peace", the “Kreni-promeni” campaign and Women in Black. Separately, labour rights unions have come under threat. Several activists and journalists face intimidation and harassment during this period. Read more

Labour unions face pressure; mounting attacks on journalists and activists

Protests against city plan met with violence; Pride Centre targeted

On 11th May 2022, Milos Vučković, a member and activist of the Let’s Not Drown Belgrade movement was physically assaulted. On 7th June 2022, the premises of the Pride Info Center in Belgrade was attacked again when the neo-nazi group Belgrader Jugend put stickers on its office windows. This is the fourteenth attack on the Centre since its opening. On 21st July 2022, protests were held in Novi Sad against the General Urban Pal (GUP), which was adopted by the city assembly, despite public opposition from over 12,000 people via a petition. Protesters were met with violence and detained. Several threats and physical attacks against journalists were documented. Read more

Protests against city plan met with violence; Pride Centre  targeted

President Aleksandar Vucic secures second term, amid growing pressure on civil society and journalists

On 3rd April 2022, presidential elections took place in Serbia. President Aleksandar Vucic secured a second term, with his party, the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS), securing the most votes in Parliament, 43.5 per cent. However, the pre-election period was marred by violations against opposition parties, some of which were unable to hold pre-election events, and there were also cases of physical and verbal attacks. Concerning developments were also documented on environmental activism and rights. Several concerning incidents were documented against journalists. Read more

President Aleksandar Vucic secures second term, amid growing pressure on civil society and journalists

Smear campaigns against CSOs, opposition and independent journalists continue

The Odbranimo Sume Fruske Gore association and the Fruskac Association, which have for years been campaigning against the irregularities in the purchase of land in the Fruska Gora National Park by the Galens company, have been sued by the company's owners. Separately, the Pride Info Center (PIC) Belgrade reported that a man tried to vandalise their premises. At a press conference discussing the government's decision to annul legislation related to the lithium exploitation project in Loznica, the Prime Minister of the Republic of Serbia Ana Brnabic accused donors of financing protests which are aimed at "breaking the spine" of Aleksandar Vucic. Serbian Interior Minister Aleksandar Vulin accused environmental activists and the organisers of a protest held on 15th February 2022 of being "foreign mercenaries". In a concerning development, • After being warned by the police not to attend protests, three members of the Mitic family from Paracin are facing misdemeanour charges for participating in protests related to environmental rights on 4th December 2021. Smear campaigns against several outlets took place, and some pre-election concerns were noted. Read more

Smear campaigns against CSOs, opposition and independent journalists continue

Mural of convicted war criminal Mladic sparks protests, violations at environmental rights protests

Several organisations have received threats for calling for the removal of a mural of convicted war criminal Ratko Mladic and for supporting civic activists Aida Corović and Jelena Jacimovic who threw eggs at the mural in protest. Corović was briefly detained and may face misdemeanour charges of disturbing public order. Relate to this, after the “Mural must fall” protest held in November 2021 in Belgrade, a banner by the organisation Women in Black stating "We will never forget the genocide in Srebrenica" was stolen and publicly burned. Additionally, a planned protest by Youth for Human Rights (YIHR) in front of the Mladic mural was banned by the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Following continuous pressure from civil society and weeks of demonstrations across Serbia during November and December 2021, President Aleksandar Vučić halted a controversial lithium mining project with British-Australian company Rio Tinto. However, during protests, several activists reported being intimidated and were warned by the police of the “risks” for attending gatherings prior to protests taking place. Read more

Mural of convicted war criminal Mladic sparks protests, violations at environmental rights protests

CSOs face attack; Podcast hosts critical of government face intimidation

On 11th September 2021, a car belonging to the Bird Protection and Research Society of Serbia was damaged.Two weeks later, the group filed a criminal complaint with the Basic Public Prosecutor in Novi Sad following death threats being sent to the Society on the hunters’ portal srbijalov.com. The Society has been facing threats coming from hunters for years due to their field engagement related to illegal hunting. The Women in Black association in Belgrade was subjected to misogynistic graffiti. Separately, local activists from the environmental rights group “Let’s Defend the Baba Mountain, Plana and Lesje” who have staged protests in Paracin, have faced pressure from police. Hosts of the “Dobar, los, zao” political entertainment podcast, Marko Vidojkovic and Nenad Kulacin, have been threatened after an episode of the podcast criticised President Vucic. Read more

CSOs face attack; Podcast hosts critical of government face intimidation

Journalists targeted by organised smear campaigns

Under the common narrative that “CSOs are foreign mercenaries and enemies of the state”, the “Srpski Telegraf” tabloid published an article entitled "Western Megaphones Get Millions" presenting unverified information about financial transactions, donors and projects carried out by media and civil society organisations. The Crime and Corruption Investigation Network (KRIK) was targeted by an organised media campaign after publishing an article with transcripts of the interrogation of Veljko Belivuk, head of a criminal group suspected of serious crimes, revealing alleged connections of the criminal group with the President’s family. Several journalists were also targeted during this period. Read more

Journalists targeted by organised smear campaigns