On Monday, Vox published an interview with Stevan Dojčinović, a Serbian journalist who is warning that his country’s democracy has collapsed — and there are signs America is heading in the same direction.
“The editor-in-chief of the Crime and Corruption Reporting Network in Belgrade, [Dojčinović], along with his reporters, has doggedly documented corruption and lawlessness in the Serbian government — an elected regime that, according to international watchdogs, has worked hard to undermine the fairness of the political system and freedom of the press,” wrote Zack Beauchamp. “Under the leadership of the right-wing populist Serbian Progressive Party, the country has fallen lower on one widely used ranking of democracy than neighboring Hungary.”
Serbia was plunged into crisis in the 1990s during the dictatorship of Slobodan Milosevic, whose brutal ethnic cleansing campaign against the Bosnians led to international war. Since then, the country has sought to build a functioning democracy — but Dojčinović says this progress is being erased.
“The first thing that they did was to crack down on media,” he said. “The state suddenly started giving a lot of money to media through many different ways. Basically, the media understands that if they want to receive this money, they have to stop criticizing the people in power.”
The ruling party has also hollowed out the legal system, he said. “What they understand is they should not change any laws in a way that [seems] undemocratic. So the laws stay the same. But they understand that they can really easily undermine all the laws. On paper, our laws are perfect. But in reality, none of these laws apply.”
“I think, for the part of the population in the US, [Trump] managed to kind of damage the reputation of some of the media,” continued Dojčinović. “This is the same thing they’re doing here to us. When they attack us and smear us, basically our readers will support us more. But the problem is when I talk with the people in Serbia who support our government, I see that what they say against us and what the media publishes really affects these people. It’s really hard to fight.”
He warned that authoritarian populists, like Trump and like the leaders in Serbia, have an objective antithetical to democratic rule.
“I think the endgame is they want to make corruption as legal as possible,” said Dojčinović. “In the end, they want money. They want to make their own deals. There’s lots of rules there to actually stop them from making some deals. They create in a way to make corruption possible to do and not to get yourself [arrested]. You know, [Rudy] Giuliani, who is working for Trump, he was hired by our guys to take part in one of their political campaigns. This is no coincidence.”
You can read more here.