Pressures on media and citizens' fear a basis for the viability of the regime in Serbia

The panel discussion titled “The Savamala Case: A Year of Lawlessness“ held on 22nd March in Belgrade, focused on the case of demolition of the buildings in the Savamala district in Belgrade one year ago, in the night after the parliamentary elections in Serbia between April 24th  and 25th 2016. Namely, while the votes were being countand the public was preoccupied with the election results, in an organized action, heavy machinery with baggers were brought to demolishbuildings in private ownership in the part of this district which is in proximity to the construction site of the luxurious residence and business complex and controversial state project known as Belgrade Waterfront. At that very point, where two streets which locate this part of the city cross, at the crossroads where this case occurred, a few men with masks, armed with bats, were securing the perimeter, so that no one would jeopardize the operation, harassing passersby, forbidding them to move freely and taking their mobile phones. The police did not react to numerous calls from citizens who were scared and surprised by the situation. However, to this very day all state authorities have shown no interest, stating that none of them has any link to the events and has no knowledge who did it.

This case represents the collapse of the legal system, showing that the rule of law in Serbia does not exist,that the prosecutor’s office is paralyzed, that competent authorities do not do their job and that those who run the state expect that the public will forget what had happened. However, citizens’ dissatisfaction, demonstrated through mass protests, which are becoming bigger and bigger every time they are organized, show that the public cannot and will not forget. The process which does not exist and reluctance to solve this case to a great extent burden the course of EU integration, an important aspect Serbia strives to in the upcoming period.

The panel is the result of media partnership project; within it, forumZFD cooperates with the Danas Daily for the first time this year. After the first panel discussion, the remaining two will be organized in the upcoming period, addressing topics in focus that are of importance for dealing with the problems in society, seeking to build a better and more decent life.

forumZFD and Danas Daily have recognized the significance of this very important moment, bringing together the most eminent experts, representatives of independent state bodies, legal specialists, journalists and people gathered around the Ne davimo Beograd (Don’t Drown Belgrade) initiative. In a packed hall of the Centre for Cultural Decontamination, for more than two hours, they were talking about the anniversary of the illegal demolition and state authorities ignoring the request to solve this case and find those responsible, and answering to the questions from the audience.

The speakers have stressed that although criminal justice system in Serbia is recovering most difficultly, there is still a hope that this case, which caused large problems in society and where innocent and unprotected people suffered, will be solved and that those responsible will be brought to justice, not only persons who carried out the demolition, but also the authorities who failed to react.

The event was attended by numerous representatives of nongovernmental organizations and media, as well as eminent persons from the public and art sphere.

forumZFD partner, the Danas Daily was launched in 1995 in very difficult and turbulent times in Serbia and the region. It was founded by a group of journalists with an idea to be one of the rare media that was courageous enough to report on events and topic which forumZFD on its part advocates in the Western Balkans. In spite of working in difficult circumstances and under pressures, for all these years this daily has managed to be present, with its objectivity, as a very relevant media actor. 

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