Human rights defenders in Serbia operate in a hostile environment. They are subjected to online threats, harassment, intimidation and attacks from government officials, non-state actors and pro-government media.
State authorities use their influence over the media to conduct smear campaigns against human rights defenders, portraying them as “traitors” and “foreign mercenaries”, discrediting their work and negatively affecting the public perception of them. Journalists investigating corruption are particularly targeted. Some politicians go as far as publishing insulting content and statements inciting violence against human rights defenders on social media.
In addition to online harassment and verbal attacks, human rights defenders are targeted with physical attacks, vandalism of their property, arson, fiscal controls, apartment or office raids. Human rights defenders in small local communities which tend to favour the status quo, human rights defenders working on war crimes, truth and reconciliation, and those working with migrants, asylum seekers or victims of human trafficking face obstacles in their work. Women and LGBTI+ rights defenders are often sexualised and are targets of misogynistic and discriminatory smear campaigns. Cases of threats, physical and verbal attacks and intimidation which are reported are often not effectively investigated, and perpetrators are rarely identified and prosecuted.