Today, the Protector of Citizens, Zoran Pašalić, signed with the representatives of media associations and newspaper unions an Agreement on Establishing a platform for recording cases of security threats and pressure on journalists and other media actors. The agreement was signed with Association of Journalists of Serbia, Independent Association of Journalists of Serbia, Independent Journalists’ Association of Vojvodina, Association of Independent Electronic Media, Media Association, Online Media Association, Business Association “Local Pres”, the Trade Union of Journalists of Serbia (SINOS), branch trade union for culture, art and media “Nezavisnost (Independence)” and the Autonomous Trade Union of Employees in Graphics, Publishing, News and Film Industry of Serbia.
Mr. Pašalić said that that day was one of the most important dates in the work of the Institution of the Protector of Citizens and expressed hope that the Agreement would advance journalists’ rights. He also pointed out that the aim of establishing that platform was the formation of a more efficient journalists’ safety protection mechanism, since accurate recording of every single case of jeopardizing the safety of journalists or any sort of pressure on journalists would contribute to a more efficient action by the competent authorities in the cases of jeopardizing journalists’ safety. The role of the media has been significant for the work of the Protector of Citizens since as much as 90 percent of own-initiative investigations were launched following the information obtained from the media, stated Mr. Pašalić.
The Protector of Citizens established that the Provincial Secretariat for Social Policy, Demography and Gender Equality had adopted the documents after the expiry of legally proscribed deadline for acting upon the Administrative Court decisions, while the RF PIO expert examination body in the second-instance procedure had acted untimely and had not submitted clear, precise, complete and logical findings, opinions and assessment to the second-instance body whereby it had contributed to prolonging the procedure and harming the complainant.
Today, the Protector of Citizens sent a special report to all local self-government units (LSUs) in the Republic of Serbia with Recommendations on conditions in Roma settlements in a state of emergency and the implementation of protection measures due to the coronavirus pandemic.
A large number of residents of informal settlements, nearly six hundred in Serbia, do not have access to water, electricity or the Internet and are not in a position to maintain basic hygiene or enable children to attend televised school classes. The existential problems that the inhabitants of Roma settlements encounter daily have been further exacerbated by the declaration of a coronavirus epidemic in Serbia. In order to act preventively amid the state of emergency, the Protector of Citizens met with the President of the Roma National Minority Council and the Minister of Labor, Employment, Veteran and Social Policy and urged them to undertake the necessary activities, within their competences, in all Roma settlements as soon as possible and provide them with basic living conditions, especially water for drinking and sanitation, food and hygiene packages. Also, letters were sent to all local self-government units to immediately take all measures to protect the inhabitants of informal Roma settlements.
In order to directly monitor the respect for the rights of the Roma community, the Secretariat of the Protector of Citizens, in compliance with all protective measures, did significant work on field and visited ten Roma settlements during the state of emergency, in April and May 2020. In five towns and municipalities (in Belgrade, Municipality of Čukarica, Kovin, Pančevo, Požarevac and Kostolac), representatives of the Secretariat of the Protector of Citizens together with representatives of the NGO A11, visited following settlements: Čukaricka Šuma, Cigan mala, Mali rit 1 and Mali rit 2, Sutjeska, Kanal, Stari Kostolac, Hotel Kostolac, Uzun Mirkova and Đurđeve rupe.
The special report, compiled in co-operation with the NGO A11, is the result of a visit to Roma settlements during the state of emergency and contains ten recommendations for bodies’ acting. Local self-government units were given a 60 days deadline from the receipt of Recommendations to notify the Protector of Citizens about the activities undertaken and plans for the implementation of protective measures in the event of a recurrence of the infection.