Wednesday 12.8.2020 Latvia - Latest Developments
There has been an active civil society dialogue with the government during the state of emergency, in particular due to the efforts of the NGO sector, and when discussing the demands and measures to be put in place to tackle the current situation. While Civic Alliance Latvia (CAL) has been working on pushing government’s actions to diminish the impact of COVID-19, it has not been successful in achieving concrete support measures for NGOs. In a concerning development, CSOs have noticed that during the emergency period authorities have become accustomed to addressing issues of public interest hastily, without undertaking public consultation as the best practice and regulation process entails.
Tuesday 11.8.2020 Czech Republic - Latest Developments
The Communist Party (KSČM) proposed an amendment to a law, which seeks to dramatically reduce the financing of associations and civic initiatives from the state budget. According to the bill, only beneficiaries that contribute to the fulfillment of state policy objectives will be provided with subsidies. In addition, Czech NGOs have also come under fire by Prime Minister Babiš, who has directly attacked civil society organisations (CSOs) as incompetent and inactive during the pandemic. The Million Moments for Democracy-led demonstrations against the Babiš government have continued. A resolution by the European Parliament, issued in June 2020, which called on the Czech Prime Minister to step down or to remove all activities that pose a conflict of interest, was widely supported by citizens.
Friday 26.6.2020 Serbia - Latest Developments
The Balternativa movement launched a petition to ban NGOs in Serbia. According to the petition, "it aims to ban the work of non-governmental organisations that posed a risk in the past for the national security of the Republic of Serbia”. The Serbian Radical Party of convicted war criminal Vojislav Seselj also advocates for banning the work of certain CSOs in his election campaign. They are proposing a law to ban state funding for NGOs. Activists have also faced attacks and threats during the reporting period. The Civic Front announced that an activist of the United Movement of Free Tenants from Nis, Jana Krstić, was verbally attacked by unknown young men who stopped her and threatened her because of a T-shirt she was wearing with the logo of the initiative ‘Don’t let Belgrade d(r)own’. Similarly, after an apperance on N1 Television, sociologist and researcher of the Bureau for Social Research (BIRODI), Zoran Gavrilović, was the target of threats and insults on Twitter. Journalists also faced physical and verbal attacks during the reporting period. Read more
Friday 19.6.2020 Slovenia - Latest Developments
On 13th March 2020, a new right-wing coalition government was constituted, with Janez Janša being appointed as the new PM. Janša, who is the leader of the Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS) is known for being one of the biggest allies of Hungary's Prime Minister, Viktor Orbán. In its first week the government took many concerning decisions regarding COVID-19. For instance, the Intervention Measures Act was introduced to provide support measures for different spheres in Slovenia. However there were unsuccessful attempts to pass articles which broaden police powers and surveillance. Freedom of expression also came under attack during the pandemic. For example, under the pretence of public health safety, the government’s press conferences were closed to the press. A compromise was later reached by journalist unions and the government. Critical journalists have also been harassed on social media and through SDS Party channels. Read more
Wednesday 17.6.2020 Croatia - Latest Developments
Due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, government introduced some economic assistance measures. However, there have not been any specific measures intended to help CSOs during the pandemic. Despite restrictions on movement, citizens have used alternative ways of protesting during the pandemic. There were concerning developments around freedom of expression during the reporting period. The Croatian Journalists' Association (HND) conducted a survey which found that there were 905 lawsuits against journalists and media outlets in Croatia. There were several cases involving physical or verbal attacks against journalists during the reporting period. In addition, media outlets face economic challenges, with the threat of closures and layoffs due to the pandemic.
Monday 15.6.2020 Macedonia - Latest Developments
Amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) induced economic crisis, the government decided to exclude CSOs from its economic assistance measures. In a separate development, on 18th May 2020 activists expressed outrage after the Constitutional Court struck down the Anti-Discrimination Law which was passed last year, citing procedural omission as a reason. During the pandemic the government made provision for media workers to have special permits to do field work even during the curfew hours, during which there is limited movement for the general public. The Association of Journalists of Macedonia (AJM) called for better communication and transparency from government institutions and health centres during the pandemic.
Tuesday 9.6.2020 Tajikistan - Latest Developments
The reporting period was marked by the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. However, this was denied by the Tajikistani authorities despite the alarming increase in deaths of patients with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 throughout March and April 2020. Doctors faced harassment and intimidation as officials urged them not to refer patients for testing. The first cases of COVID-19 were only officially announced on 30th April 2020, when a World Health Organisation (WHO) delegation travelled to the country to investigate the health crisis. Attacks on freedom of expression continued with independent journalist Daler Sharipov sentenced to one year’s imprisonment on what is widely regarded as politically motivated charges. The blocking and disabling of websites, social media platforms and internet messages and the temporary blocking of internet access continued to be part of the authorities’ strategy to silence critical voices. By the end of April 2020, the websites of Asia Plus, Akhbor.com and Radio Ozodi were blocked.
Wednesday 22.4.2020 United Kingdom - Latest Developments
A group known as “Pause the System” staged a protest against the government’s response to the pandemic wearing hazmat suits outside Downing Street. The group which wore face masks and gloves called on the government to lock down the UK. The government passed the Coronavirus Act 2020 to tackle the pandemic. But rights groups have warned that the act gives the UK governent the “most draconian powers in peacetime Britain". In addition, Reporters without Borders underlined several worrying steps put in place by the UK government, through the PM’s cabinet, to undermine freedom of expression.
Monday 20.4.2020 Serbia - Latest Developments
As previously covered on the CIVICUS Monitor, the work of independent media in Serbia can face discrimination and threats from the government. A recent example is the "Kragujevacke" newspaper, the only printed media in Kragujevac, whose editor-in-chief recently spoke out about the two-fold discrimination that the outlet faces. Firstly, high officials avoid giving publication's reporters statements, which hampers their ability to report on critical issues and secondly, they are unable to access funding from the city budget, which threatens their financial sustainability. Read more
Wednesday 1.4.2020 Netherlands - Latest Developments
Netherland’s largest charity lottery, De Nationale Postcode Loterij, is under fire from right-wing populist party Forum voor Democratie (Forum for Democracy, FvD) for supporting what they call ‘activists and extreme-left organisations’. Party leader, Thierry Baudet has proposed several measures, ranging from giving people the choice to decide which charity their money should go to, setting up an additional lottery that runs parallel to the current one and retracting De Nationale Postcode Loterij’s permit. He also wants to change the law that allows foundations and associations to go to court with public interest matters. Read more