Declining media freedom and biased reporting in Serbia: Prospects for an enhanced EU approach

In the context of the global crisis caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic, free, impartial and professional media reporting has become ever more important. This represents an issue in Serbia, considering its ongoing decline in media freedom as confirmed by independent international reports.

The conditions for practising professional journalism have been degraded for years and the Serbian media sector has faced numerous challenges, including political control over the mainstream media, low financial sustainability of media outlets and related high dependence on state funding, as well as a lack of transparency of that funding. Obscure media ownership and privatisation issues are yet another reason for concern. Additionally, the safety of journalists is problematic as the number of pressures, threats and attacks has grown since 2013, but the impunity phenomenon remains present. All these factors lead to a general state of censorship and self-censorship in the media in Serbia.

This report, developed in cooperation with Clingendael institute, presents the most prominent problems that the media sector in Serbia faces today. It argues that the flawed media landscape is the major factor leading to poor and biased reporting on topics related to the EU, the US and Russia. It observes media bias as a phenomenon in which media coverage presents inaccurate, unbalanced and/or unfair views with an intention to affect reader opinions in a particular direction. The analysis places a special focus on what such reporting means for the EU, given its strategic and communication goals for Serbia and the Western Balkans region.

Download the report here.

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Opening governments in times of lockdown

governments, WeBER2.0, WeBER, Western Balkans

The ongoing coronavirus crisis has spurred a myriad of measures from governments in the Western Balkans to better inform their citizens and provide services in emergency circumstances. Yet, responses to the pandemic and the institution of unprecedented lockdown measures have introduced various challenges to already fragile standards of transparency, accountability and rule of law, as well as have exposed shortcomings in the functioning of public administrations, in the Western Balkans. The crisis is increasingly being used as an excuse to backslide on previously achieved progress. The way emergency measures were adopted and enforced, and how citizens were informed, require close scrutiny, so as to ensure that the practices developed during this crisis do not become the “new normal”.

This policy brief, developed as part of the regional WeBER initiative, examines the approaches of public administrations in the Western Balkans to the COVID-19 crisis. It looks at the quality of communication and implementation of the measures taken by the governments of the Western Balkans to respond to the pandemic. It argues that simple and streamlined communication and transparency in the implementation of such measures are equally, if not more, important in times of emergencies and crises, when citizens are more vulnerable in their relationship with the government than in normal times. Based on an overview of positive and negative practices exhibited in the region, this brief offers a set of recommendations for governments to consider as soon as possible, in order to ensure maximum learning from this experience. There is a two-fold benefit to considering these recommendations. Firstly, they may prove valuable in the event of a second wave of pandemic (as is projected by epidemiologists), which might require the re-imposition of some measures in the coming months. Secondly, certain precautionary measures are likely to remain in place even after lockdowns and restrictions across the region are ended, with the implementation of these recommendations potentially of benefit to citizens in the near future as well.

Download the brief here.

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Service delivery

What is the public opinion – is the administration is citizen-oriented or not? Can citizens give feedback on the quality of administrative services and is the feedback is publicly available? What do CSOs think about accessibility of administrative services? Do (and how) service providers publish information about offered services?

Find out in this WeBER infographic. 

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National PAR Monitor Montenegro 2017/2018

This PAR Monitor report, produced by the WeBER project, provides detailed monitoring results and recommendations for Montenegro, based on a comprehensive, year-long research focused on PAR. The PAR Monitor methodology is rooted in the regional approach. The design of all WeBER indicators enables comparisons between the administrations in the Western Balkans and allows for regional comparability of results.

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National PAR Monitor Macedonia 2017/2018

This PAR Monitor report, produced by the WeBER project, provides detailed monitoring results and recommendations for Macedonia, based on a comprehensive, year-long research focused on PAR. The PAR Monitor methodology is rooted in the regional approach. The design of all WeBER indicators enables comparisons between the administrations in the Western Balkans and allows for regional comparability of results.

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National PAR Monitor Kosovo 2017/2018

This PAR Monitor report, produced by the WeBER project, provides detailed monitoring results and recommendations for Albania, based on a comprehensive, year-long research focused on PAR. The PAR Monitor methodology is rooted in the regional approach. The design of all WeBER indicators enables comparisons between the administrations in the Western Balkans and allows for regional comparability of results.

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Proactive transparency and the right of access to information: Two sides of the same coin

Depending on the side initiating communication, there is a reactive transparency of the administration in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and it is based on citizens requesting information pursuant to the Freedom of Access to Information Act, and the requested information is then granted to the citizens upon their request; and there is a proactive transparency, where the administration publishes specific information on its own initiative because it wants to inform the citizens of its work, on their rights and obligations, or wishes to involve the citizens in decision-making processes pertaining to laws, policies, actions and other.

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