Civil Society for Fair Elections

Belgrade, 16 February 2022-

Civil Society for Fair Elections

– Elections Under the Magnifying Glass –

Civil society in Serbia informs the domestic and international public that, due to the increasing frequency of human rights violations, it will regularly monitor the election campaign in order to assess whether the upcoming elections are free, fair and democratic. The basic human right to be chosen and choose those who will make decisions on your behalf is at the heart of democracy.

For years, international and domestic reports have shown that there are serious tendencies that the atmosphere in which the elections are being organized does not allow Serbian citizens to make an informed decision about who to vote for. In this period, elections have been marked with the presence of a noticeable “functionary campaign”, pressure on voters, misuse of state and public resources for political purposes and unequal treatment of the ruling parties and the opposition in the media with a national frequency.

Alongside the impossibility for critical voices to be heard in pro-government media, government pressure on other media has increased year by year through attacks on journalists, unloyal competition on the media market and smear campaigns in media close to the government. In addition, research shows that in the pre-election period, media with a national frequency absolutely favor the candidates of the ruling coalition, while, on the other hand, waging a continuous negative campaign against their rivals. This is contrary to not only ethical codes and standards, but laws as well.

In the last few months, we have noted significant encroachment on the freedom of peaceful assembly in the area of ecology, through pressure on citizens before and after gatherings, abuse of the law in order to punish assembly participants, and attempts to prevent critically oriented public assemblies. Freedom of assembly has a particular importance in the pre-election period, as its enjoyment is a common element of election campaigns. Endangering these freedoms could have major consequences on the right to free and fair elections, and could contribute to  tailoring election results in accordance with the wishes of the authorities.

Pressures on freedom of association, and specifically those organizations who deal with overseeing the work of institutions and constructive criticism of the government have been at a very high level in all areas of society for years. In the last few pre-election periods, there has been a significant increase in attacks by the authorities and pro-government media on organizations dealing with election monitoring and civil rights related to the election process. Attacks on organizations dealing with electoral law represent obstacles to their work, and thus make it impossible to create a realistic account of omissions and ways in which the right of citizens to participate in the most direct democratic process in an informed and unrestricted way has been endangered.

On the day elections have been called in Serbia, we, civil society organizations gathered around the Three Freedoms platform, inform the public that we will consistently and regularly report on all cases of violations of basic human rights, in order to get a more realistic picture of the election process and respect for the rule of law in the pre-election period. The gathered organizations will send daily reports, organize weekly conferences, and especially react to all attacks on organizations that monitor elections.

The first press conference will be held on Monday, February 21 at 12 o’clock.