20 Apr Freedom House Report on Nations in Transit: Serbia regressed the most, civil society “last layer of accountability”

Belgrade, 20 April 2022 –

The new report coming from the Freedom House non-governmental organization, named “Nations in Transit – From Democratic Decline to Authoritarian Aggression”, which was published today, stated that Serbia, for the third year in a row, was not positioned in the category of democratic states, instead being qualified as a “hybrid regime“, where incomplete democratic transition resulted in an authoritarian government.

The report further states that the so-called “hybrid regimes“, as the one in Serbia, for the first time in the 21st century, prevail amongst countries monitored in the report, that covers 29 European and Asian countries. According to the report, Serbia regressed the most from all countries in the region. The overall score of democracy in Serbia decreased from 3.89 to 3.79 (scores are given on a scale from 1 to 7), and when put in percentage, from 48% to 46%. As stated in report, Serbia went back on corruption, but also when it comes to the state of independent media and civil society.

According to the definition of hybrid regimes given by Freedom House, such governments are characterized by both political repression and elections – which, instead, are often “not fair, nor free”. In the context of the last elections in Serbia, the rule od media close to the ruling party was noted in creating public opinion and “putting seeds of discord” amongst the opposition. We remind that previously the group of organizations gathered around the Three Freedoms Platform pointed out on the state of democracy during the elections, but also the work of media and competent regulatory bodies in the pre-election period, in its monitoring reports “Elections Under the Magnifying Glass”.

The report also notes the key role of civil society in hybrid democracy regimes. As it was stated, civil society represents a “firewall” and “last layer of accountability” in societies were the “key factors of democracy were warped – but were not entirely dismantled”. The position of Serbia is particularly noted when it comes to what civil society is faced with in such environments, where, according to Freedom House, the regime co-opted illiberal groups to counter civil society and their efforts. The example stated in the report was related to how the state reacted to massive environmental protests – besides targeting organizers and participants in media and conducting intimidation by the police, protesters in Sabac were faced with physical attacks by armed groups connected with local authorities. Civil society organizations gathered in the Three Freedoms Platform, announced back then that the police in this case gravely breached their legal duty of protecting life, rights, and freedoms of citizens, and called on competent institutions to conduct all necessary steps to process those responsible. Despite this, this case did not have an institutional epilogue.

You can download the whole report by clicking on the button below: