According to Rodoljub Šabić, a lawyer and Serbia’s former and first commissioner for information of public importance and Personal Data Protection, the availability of information on the government and Crisis Headquarters’ efforts to suppress the COVID-19 pandemic is worryingly and unacceptably low, and their current attitude is leading to more serious problems.
“The government’s actions [thus far] and the way its representatives are reacting to the media and the public’s completely legitimate requests for access to information, especially when it concerns the pandemic, are not only clashing with the authorities’ constitutional obligations toward the public, but they are even diametrically opposed to the government’s promises given in public,” Šabić told the BETA News Agency on Wednesday (1 July).
Šabić believes that the authorities have given rise to “the public’s discontent while at the same time fuelling the already existing doubts about the veracity of even the insufficient information the government has made available.”
Šabić added that the public is also being denied access to data about the acquisition of medical supplies, primarily ventilators and masks.
He recalled that “at the beginning of the crisis, journalists and the Transparency Serbia NGO have pointed to the government’s responsibility to provide the public with at least the basic information about these acquisitions and expenses,” but that they were faced with Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabić’s “nervous reaction, terse dismissals and accusations.”