“Having our democratic system endure the dire (political) situation that the country finds itself in right now is a huge challenge,“ says Kruna Savovic, Partner at Zivkovic Samardzic in Belgrade, about the current goings-on in Serbia.
“I’m afraid that it will be a battle for survival,“ Savovic says. She believes that the government that will be formed following the June 21 parliamentary elections will “keep working on the foundations of the previous one – which is to say that similar people will be the ones forming it.“ In addition, Savovic says, the ongoing COVID-19 situation only adds to the hardship. “I want to believe that everybody values human lives above everything else," she says, "but I cannot shake the feeling that it too is becoming relativized.“
In fact, Savovic says, the government made one very “problematic“ move in particular. “A resolution was passed designating the government-controlled crisis HQ as the only relevant source of COVID-related information,” she says. "This, in effect, meant that any other source – in particular journalists and media outlets – could be breaking the law if they were to report information from any other source.“ According to her, this effectively cut the media out and put extra pressure on journalists to “slow down with reporting on the most important subject in the country at that time.“
This resolution was quickly withdrawn and voided by the government, Savovic says, but it left scars. “A reporter was arrested one night because she was covering a story about the lack of personal protection equipment in the Clinical Centre of Vojvodina, in Novi Sad,“ she says. This move was highly problematic, she says, not only because it “denied the public an avenue of information when they needed it the most,“ but also because it “obstructed journalistic freedom to report“ when it was most needed.
Savovic says that she believes the new government will have the same goals for the future as its predecessor. “The crisis we’re facing is deep and wide,“ she says, “and I am not so optimistic, but I hope that we will have human rights as our main priorities.“ She thinks that those business activities that can be performed digitally will “endure for sure,“ but that the ones which require close personal contact are “under serious pressure and are likely to suffer a lot. Still, I feel that we must do everything we can to mitigate the health risks, while we are aware that the huge impending economic crisis is at the door.“