PRESS RELEASE: The Government must not restrict journalism research or social dialogue on the pandemic

April 1. 2020

The Slavko Ćuruvija Foundation: The Government must not restrict journalism research or social dialogue on the pandemic

The Slavko Ćuruvija Foundation requests that the Government of Serbia enable the timely informing of all citizens in local communities in Serbia on issues related to the situation regarding the new coronavirus pandemic in their communities, as well as regarding measures taken by local governments to protect the population.

With its conclusions, the Government must not restrict either journalism research or social dialogue on the pandemic, as well as its ramifications and stances regarding the managing of the current crisis.

The conclusion of the Serbian Government, which has designated its Crisis Staff as the sole source of information regarding the pandemic, practically abolishes media reporting, assigning the media the role of propagating only the information and views that the Government itself wishes to provide to citizens. Consistent implementation of this Conclusion prevents journalists from verifying the veracity and relevance of information released by the Crisis Staff. Simultaneously, the Government is suspending the Serbian Constitution and international conventions that guarantee human rights, which includes the right to freedom of information.

We consider that the Conclusion of the Government particularly endangers citizens in 174 municipalities and cities in Serbia, whose journalists have to date encountered problems in obtaining information on the status and measures for fighting the pandemic in local communities. With the centralising of information in all local communities, the Government additionally threatens not only the providing of timely and accurate information on locally relevant issues, but also potentially additionally overburdens the Crisis Staff, which – in addition to the basic work of implementing measures to counter the pandemic – should focus virtually all of its work on answering the questions of hundreds of media outlets throughout the whole of Serbia.

We remind the Government that it is precisely a lack of timely and verified information that represents the most fertile ground for the spreading of fake news and misinformation. The Government also must not forget that in a democratic society both it and the Crisis Staff are subjects of public scrutiny. Were this otherwise, we would pose a question regarding what the situation with the pandemic would be like today if official stances had been the only source of information during the time when Covid-19 was the most ridiculous virus in the world and when citizens were advised to go shopping in Milan.