BELGRADE – “The fight against the pandemic is being used as an instrument against the European Union, with labelling the EU as culprit and glorifying China for its aid. I wonder why Serbian president President Aleksandar Vučić did not “kiss” all the equipment that Serbia received from the EU. He is trying to portray the EU as the cause of the problem, while China is saving the world. That is simply, not true. In financial and material terms, the EU has done more. Simply, Vučić spreads disinformation,” said for Danas Viola Von Cramon – Taubadel EP Rapporteur for Kosovo and member of Green Party answering the question of whether she considers that the fight against coronavirus is being politicized in Serbia.
How do you assess the media situation and the rule of law in Serbia during the current state of emergency?
I see very worrying tendencies in Serbia and many other countries where leaders want to use the pandemic as an excuse to “grab” more power. To intimidate and to detain journalists is a very dangerous path. Although some regulations have been withdrawn after the arrest of Ana Lalić, this has consequences for all other journalists and anyone who wants to talk about problems, which leads to self-censorship. The latest arrest of the directors of the nursing home shows that Vučić and the authorities want to show force and comfort those who advocate for more “order and security”. It will not lead to effective measures. I cannot say that in this case, the nursing home director did not make mistakes or violate legal powers, and so on, but it needs to be determined in a lengthy and extensive investigation. Quick arrests and difficult slogans are not helpful. I am not a doctor, but what I know for sure is that we need openness as well as much publicly available information as we do not know what we are fighting against and where are we fighting if we do not know the right situation. If we intimidate local decision-makers, it will only lead to lies and disinformation. This is exactly what Serbia and other countries should avoid. We need clear legal procedures and the rule of law in this crisis.
How do you comment on statements by Serbian officials about the media and other “hot” topics?
Access to information is more important than ever before, which is why the Serbian authorities should answer the questions more quickly than usual, withholding information can literally cost lives. Epidemiologists and other experts can only respond when they know the real situation in the country. Of course, nowhere in the world is there a country that knows how many people are infected, but governments need to collect information. However, there are better examples, Kosovo is much more “open” and information on COVID-19 are more detailed.
How do you look at the current situation in Kosovo, where the editor of the KoSSEv portal, Tanja Lazarević, was brought in?
Journalists do a very important job as they report from the front line. I think that detaining is a very bad example. Authorities should assist the work of journalists. I find it unacceptable to bring in any journalist while doing his/her job. In many cases, journalists are like truck drivers or doctors, who need to go out and meet people to do their jobs. The authorities need to accept this reality.