Alarming changes to Freedom of Information law in Serbia

The Serbian government wants to amend the Freedom of Information law in order to increase transparency in public institutions, but civil society argues the proposed legislation could seriously jeopardize the right to information. 

Lidija Pisker
Lidija Pisker NewsMavens, Balkans
Alarming changes to Freedom of Information law in Serbia - NewsMavens
Rodoljub Šabić, Wikimedia Commons.

Why this story matters:

With the proposed changes, companies with state capital would be exempt from the obligation to respond to requests filed under the Freedom of Information provision -- a change that would mostly affect investigative journalists.

The proposed modifications are yet another example of the Serbian government's paranoid approach towards public criticism. 

In February of this year, a Belgian journalist was denied a residence permit even though he had been living in Serbia for years. His stay was only approved after harsh criticism from international organizations. The same month, a Serbian newspaper censored part of an obituary in order not to displease Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić. 

If Serbia doesn't make a radical political shift to more liberal governance, the country could descend into fully-fledged media repression.

media, politics, illiberalism

Details from the story:

  • The legislative changes were drafted by Serbia's Ministry of State Administration. They were submitted to the public for a discussion period, which will end on April 19.  
  • If adopted, the controversial legislation will allow institutions to initiate court proceedings against the decisions of the Information Commissioner, who is in charge of deciding if an institution failed to comply with law. The Information Commissioner also issues fines if the institution refuses to present requested information. 
  • Serbia's Information Commissioner Rodoljub Šabić, who was not a member of the working group who drafted the legislative changes, said that the proposed modifications are part of coordinated efforts to stop people from exercising their right.
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