The Speaker of the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia Dr Vladimir Orlic met today with Irene Khan, UN Human Rights Council Special Rapporteur for the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression.
Dr Orlic said that the Republic of Serbia has absolute freedom of opinion and expression and that our country has in previous years made progress both through regulations and in practice. This has been confirmed, he pointed out, by relevant international indicators. "According to last year's Press Freedom Index compiled by "Reporters Without Borders", Serbia has advanced by 14 positions compared to the year before and is now ranked better than even some EU member states," said the Speaker of the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia. He also pointed out the significantly lower number of physical attacks on journalists compared to the period of more than ten years ago, drawing attention to the intensive work to further improve the rights of journalists and protect their safety done by the bodies formed by the Government of Serbia, numerous established mechanisms and new platforms.
He reminded the guest that, on the eve of last year's elections, the National Assembly of Republic of Serbia had adopted amendments to the Law on Electronic Media and the Law on Public Media Services, which, along with numerous other solutions, was the result of the interparty dialogue that ensured election conditions compliant with the highest democratic standards since introduction of the multi-party system in Serbia.
Speaking about keeping national minorities informed in their own language, he said that this issue is also regulated better in our country than in some European countries, confirming the wide availability of the Internet to citizens of Serbia. "Urban areas are fully covered by high-speed internet, which the Government of Serbia will provide to the most remote rural areas by 2025, implementing the broadband national network programme," said Dr Orlic.
The National Assembly Speaker took the opportunity to inform the UN Special Rapporteur about the case of Ivan Todosijevic, Serb sentenced to prison by Pristina for a verbal offense. "Since the fall of the Iron Curtain, there has been no instance on European soil that someone has been sentenced only because of something they said. Such a thing is completely unconceivable anywhere in Europe today, yet this is exactly what is happening to Serbs in Kosovo-Metohija. The man was sentenced to one year in prison, he was summoned to serve the sentence, without even being served with the verdict. This is not only illegal, but also a brutal trampling of human rights and open persecution. At the same time, Kurti's member of the so-called "security forces" shot at Serbian children on Christmas Day and that villain was released under house arrest, charged only with "endangerment". These facts clearly point to a serious violation of the right to freedom of thought, expression and all other rights of Serbs in Kosovo-Metohija and deserve to be in the UN Human Rights Council’s report”, said the National Assembly Speaker.
Irene Khan praised the regulatory framework that guarantees media freedom and pluralism in Serbia, emphasising the importance of the National Assembly’s role in terms of the legal solutions whose adoption is yet to come. Dr Orlic expressed the expectation that the cooperation between the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia and the UN Human Rights Council would continue in the future.