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A woman walks in front of a police cordon in front of the police headquarters in Belgrade, Serbia, March 17, 2019 (AP photo by Darko Vojinovic).

Why Demands for a Free Press Are Front and Center in Serbia’s Protests

Monday, March 18, 2019

Serbia’s protests have been hard to miss even if you don’t follow news and politics out of the Balkans. For more than three months, thousands of demonstrators have taken to the streets of Belgrade and other Serbian cities to demand free and fair elections, an end to violent attacks against politicians and journalists and investigations into them, and more independent and unbiased reporting in the country.

Why is that last demand so central to protesters? Serbia’s media environment has been suffering from several long-standing problems, but things took a turn for the worse after President Aleksandar Vucic and his Serbian Progressive Party, or SNS, came to power in 2012. As Vucic has dominated Serbia’s political field—the SNS has won two snap elections since 2012 and is riding high in the polls, with support of more than 50 percent—he has asserted tighter control over the media and the political messages carried on airwaves. ...

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