The Freemuse organization, which defends artistic freedom, warned in its annual report that artists in Serbia faced censorship by the government in 2018.
The State of Artistic Freedom report said that 80 percent of the violations of artistic freedom reported in Serbia were linked to politics.
Freemuse said that censorship of the arts, which was usually subtle in form, were justified with alleged technical and procedural reasons and “were initiated or implemented by members of the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) which controls most of the political, social and cultural institutions in the country”.
The report said that most artists who experienced censorship openly criticized the ruling party and cited the example of the exhibition by caricaturists Dusan Petricic and Predraga Koraksic which was removed from the library of a small town just outside Belgrade the day after it opened.
The report said that the managers of the theatre festival in Aleksinac cancelled the play Drowned Soul (Utopljena Dusa) in November, claiming a potential conflict of interests. The lead in that play was supposed to have been played by Sergej Trifunovic, a fierce critic of the authorities. Sergej’s father Toma Trifunovic was the artistic director of the festival but resigned claiming that the ban of the play was because of his son’s criticism of the SNS.
The Belgrade festival Miredita, Dobar Dan (good day in Albanian and Serbian) was held in a very tense atmosphere with right-wing groups protesting what they said was a promotion of Albanian culture in Belgrade, it added. The festical was intended to create links between Serbian and Albanian young people.
Kosovo author and publicist Shkelzen Maliqi was stopped by Serbian police at the border, allegedly for additional checks, and could not attend the June 19 promotion of his book in Belgrade, the Freemuse report said.
It added that the opening of the PreFoto festival in the Abdul Krasniqi culture center in the southern Serbian town of Preseveo (which has a large ethnic Albanian population) was cancelled in November after fire inspectors closed the center claiming irregularities.