Serbian legislation does not contain prohibitions regarding communication and access any source of information, including the Internet and ICT which is in line with standards.
When it comes to prohibition unjustified monitoring of communication channels, including Internet and ICT, or collecting users’ information by the authorities, legal framework indicates partially enabling environment. Interception of communication in criminal proceedings without a warrant issued by the competent court is forbidden. Covert Interception of Communications is ordered in the case where grounds for suspicion exist for a certain person who committed the criminal offense, and for a criminal procedure where evidence cannot be gathered in another manner, or where gathering would be significantly aggravated, as well as where grounds of suspicion exist for the person preparing to commit a criminal offense which cannot be prevented or proved in any other manner that enters into the domain of privacy to a lesser extent
Article 167 of the Criminal Procedure Code prescribes that the special evidentiary action referred to in Article 166 of this Code is ordered by the judge for preliminary proceedings by a reasoned order. The order is executed by the police, Security Information Agency or Military Security Agency. Legal entities, companies and other enterprises registered for transmission of information are required to cooperate with competent bodies and enable the implementation of this evidentiary action.
There are certain cases in practice where restrictions are imposed on accessing any source of information, including the Internet or ICT which means that standards are partially met.
According to the MM survey, 49 organizations responded their channels of communication were not blocked and 3 of them responded their channels of communication were blocked. 50 organizations responded that they did not have restrictions to access to information online or offline and 2 of them had.
0 – 20 Fully disabling environment20 – 40 Disabling environment
40 – 60 Partially enabling environment60 – 80 Enabling environment
80 – 100 Fully enabling environment
An employee at the Krusik Factory, who leaked information to the Arms Watch portal that Serbia’s Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic’s father was involved in the arms trade, was arrested on charges of disclosing business secrets. The whistleblower, Aleksandar Obradovic was initially sentenced to house arrest, but under alleged political pressure the judge later decided to order a 30-day stint in jail. While Serbia’s Special Prosecution for High-Tech Crime claimed that the investigation and proceedings against the Obradovic were in accordance with the law, former Commissioner for Information of Public Importance, Rodoljub Sabic, noted that the public remained deprived of key facts regarding the case. A petition calling for Aleksandar Obradovic’s release amassed over 30,000 signatures in December 2019. At the end of December, Obradovic was released from house arrest, but no decision has been taken on his return to work and criminal proceedings against him have not been completed.
Facebook prevented the Autonomous Women’s Centre from sharing the link with a statement by the Autonomous Women’s Centre the Court of Appeal’s verdict in the case of the rape of a Roma girl, as the link allegedly violated Facebook’s standards. This case was recorded by the Share Foundation as the algorithmic blocking and suspension of content. When she pointed to nationalist attacks on an Albanian bakery in Borca, activist Sofia Todorovic faced the blocking of her Twitter account. This case was recorded by the Share Foundation Content as manipulation and organized logging in to social networks and blocking accounts.
In Serbia the internet is widely accessible and affordable. 72.9% of households have an internet connection according to 2018 data (data for 2019 are not yet available). Data also shows Internet is affordable in Serbia because 1GB of data is priced at 0,85% of average income. All this indicates fully enabling environment.
However, there are some cases of unjustified monitoring by the authorities of communication channels, including the Internet or ICT, or of collecting users’ information which is partially in line with standards.
After KRIK (the Crime and Corruption Investigation Network) published the story of a corruption affair, whose main actor is the brother of Finance Minister Sinisa Mali, Predrag Mali, orchestrated attacks on KRIK in pro-regime tabloids have begun. Pro-regime tabloids, known for constantly presenting lies and defamation against anyone who dares to criticize the ruling party reported that KRIK journalists chased an unmarried wife and child of Predrag Mali, what KRIK sharply denied. KRIK has explicitly stated that he is not their journalist or associate. Police announced the reward for anyone who knows the person who followed Predrag Mali‘s wife. Fifteen days later, police arrested the suspect, who was soon released. For now, it remains unclear whether the man surrendered himself or was identified and arrested by police according to someone’s information. A journalist for the KRIK investigative journalism portal said that there are indications that the portal and its staff are being monitored by the authorities.
A report from the Belgrade Centre for Security Policy „A Case Study – Threats and Pressures on Activists”, states that almost all of their interviewers are sure that their electronic communications have been monitored, although most of them point out that there is no solid evidence for this. This is mainly conclusion from interference with their cell phone calls, or “a crystal clear signal, even in places where the signal is weak to others.” Also, some of the respondents pointed out that their batteries in the phone get unusually low in the small period of time and that their phones are “hot”.
It is similar with cases of police harassment of members of social networking groups. Through the FOI request sent to Ombudsman, this institution stated they had no reported cases of police persecution/harassment of members of online initiatives and groups recorded by your institution in the past 12 months.
According to the MM survey, 49 CSOs and informal groups responded that they did not face persecution for activity in an online network/ initiative and 3 of them did.
Previously mentioned case of Aleksandra Jankovic who was accused of sending threats and insults to President Aleksandar Vucic and his children, was also assessed within this indicator. This express reaction of those in charge is not an indicator of the efficiency of the judicial system, but of the different standards used to protect the rights of persons in power or those close to them from those that apply when other citizens’ rights are threatened. This is supported by the huge number of unresolved threats against journalists and civil society organizations that are left without a closure. She was in custody and her lawyer pointed out that this case is used as a punishment for political opponents. Her trial is still ongoing.