Serbia falls two points on FH ‘Freedom in the World 2021’ list

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Source: Freedom House logo

Freedom House (FH) reduced Serbia's rating by two points, from 66 to 64 in 2021 and categorised it as a 'partly free' country following the state's decision to reduce the threshold ahead of last June general elections and the police behaviour during the anti-government protest in July.

The FH report said that „Serbia is a parliamentary democracy with competitive multiparty elections, but in recent years the ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) has steadily eroded political rights and civil liberties, putting pressure on independent media, the political opposition, and civil society organisations.“

„An electoral list,“ it added, „headed by the SNS won the June parliamentary elections, securing a parliamentary supermajority. Opposition parties that held seats during the previous legislative term largely boycotted the contest, saying they were unfairly conducted; in February, weeks before the contest was originally scheduled, legislators lowered the voting threshold to win seats in an apparent effort to lessen the effectiveness of a boycott.“

„Riot police responded forcefully to protests in Belgrade in July, with demonstrators rallying against the announcement of a COVID-19 lockdown, other government policies, and of President Aleksandar Vučić’s conduct in office. Police were observed attacking protesters, bystanders, and journalists while seeking to disperse the demonstrations, which lasted several days,“ the FH report said, listing Key Developments in 2020.

It added that „the SNS has expanded its influence over the media through both state-owned enterprises and an array of private outlets that are dependent on government funding, and has harnessed this influence to strengthen its political position and discredit its rivals, further reducing opposition parties’ competitiveness. Opposition figures have also faced escalating harassment and violence in recent years.

Besides FH, the European Parliament for the first time severely criticised Belgrade for high-level corruptio and the deterioration of human rights and media freedom.