Original article (in Serbian) was published on 06/10/2023; Author: Ivan Subotić
In October 6 print edition, the daily paper Alo published an article titled “Freedom House: Serbia is seventh in Europe in terms of freedom on the Internet”, referring to the recently released report by the organization “Freedom on the Internet 2023: The Repressive Power of Artificial Intelligence”.
“This information caused a shock among the opponents of the current regime, who most like to follow the maxim, the worse, the better. And for two reasons…” writes Alo.
The tabloid suggests that the Freedom House research serves as “irrefutable proof of the widest possible freedom of expression and views in our country.” Alo also notes that “anyone, without the risk of being punished, can write anything they want on social networks.”
Another reason for the shock, according to Alo, is the credibility of Freedom House as the organization behind the research, as they state “the organization that the aforementioned haters swear by in almost any other matter.”
However, Alo fails to mention that, according to Freedom House’s classification, only nine European countries participated in the report, excluding Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia, which are considered part of the Eurasian region rather than Europe.
According to this report, Serbia is seventh in Europe in terms of freedom on the Internet, but only Turkey and Hungary are positioned worse than us, while countries such as Spain, Portugal, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Scandinavian and other countries did not participate in the research.
While Alo is correct in stating that Serbia falls into the category of countries with “internet freedom,” it doesn’t mention that the country is only two points away from the “partial freedom on the Internet” category and has regressed by one point compared to the previous report.
Perkov: view the report from a slightly different angle
Bojan Perkov from the SHARE Foundation, one of the authors of the Freedom House report on Serbia, confirmed for FakeNews Tragac that Alo misinterpreted the report.
“The report gives a cross-section of the state of internet freedom only in certain countries that Freedom House monitors, and the ranking should be viewed from a slightly different angle. According to the parameters of Internet access, Serbia records a very good result with 22 out of 25 points in that area, bearing in mind that the Internet is available and affordable to a significant part of the population, while in the other two areas covered by the report, content restrictions (24 out of 35) and violation user rights (25 out of 40), loses a lot of points”, says Perkov.
Referring to the interpretation of the Freedom House report as evidence for “the widest possible freedom of expression and expression of views in our country”, Perkov states that such an understanding is also debatable.
“The free expression of views in the ‘broadest’ sense is also debatable, bearing in mind that in previous years we have had cases of citizens being invited to informational interviews with the police or misdemeanors prosecuted for posting on social networks, for example when there were environmental protests across Serbia. These are all circumstances that contribute to creating the effect of anxiety due to the possible consequences for expression on the Internet”, Perkov explains.