Impressions about BSF 2015

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FAIRY TALE DEFENDERS OF DEMOCRATIC VALUES

14. 10. 2016

The question posed in the Plenary Panel titled Will Civil Society Save Democratic Values was characterized as “a one from fairy tales” by the panel’s moderator Mr. Goran Buldioski. In this context, civil society can be regarded either as a prince who saves the princess or Cinderella’s stepmother. The question of whether civil society can save democratic values should be posed not only in context of Balkans, but broader.

 

The first speaker, Mr. Bosanac used a cookbook metaphor to explain that, usually, multiparty system, elected government, parliament and judiciary system are usually regarded as key ingredients of democracy, while media and civil society is interpreted as an added value to democracy. He believes that all civil society organisations should be watchdogs, but should focus on violation of socioeconomic rights instead of civil and political rights, and should be funded by the state. Left-wing NGOs in Croatia never had support from the majority; they dealt with unpopular themes and protected vulnerable groups, he said. Mr. Bosanac also emphasised that left-wing NGOs should cooperate with new movements in order to ensure that they will be grounded in real democratic values.

Plenary Panel 4

 

Mr. Arizmendi Ruiz talked about the activities of Platform of People Affected by Mortgages which started six years ago, with a few assemblies in a few cities and today has over 240 assemblies. It is funded by donations and solidarity events, acting in solidarity with movements that fight for gender equality, education, health care, etc. in order to ensure these rights remain untouched by neoliberal policies. This movement became the most relevant social movement in Spain, even suing the Spanish state in front of the ECJ. “There is no democracy if human rights are infringed”, notes Mr. Arizmendi Ruiz, adding that every family had a right to have a home and that home should be affordable.

Ms. Jeta Xharra pointed out that there is a dark side of the civil society’s battle, which is challenging corrupt politicians. “It’s a cat and mouse game”, she said, but civil society would keep fighting because its loyalty lied with the people first and foremost. Ms. Xharra also thinks that when civil society is attacked, it should employ the same methods organized crime does. She feels there is no other way to finance investigative journalism but trough projects funded by foundations.

Ms. Dragana Pećo who talked about Krik’s work. Krik was attacked from the very beginning of their work and a smear campaign has been lead against them. The politicians have money, power and control over the media for the most part, but Krik reminds them that all its stories are based on original stories and every word is fact-checked. She also emphasised that citizens have been instrumental in Krik’s funding, citing that Krik has 400 individual donors. There is a fear among donors, because of political implications of their involvement.

Moderator Mr. Buldioski concluded that the panelists did not manage to answer the original question posed before the panel. His own opinion was that civil society should choose the social compound it wants to make an impact on, in order to save democracy.

 

  • Javier Arizmendi Ruiz‚ Platform of People Affected by Mortgages, Spain‚
  • Gordan Bosanac‚ Centre for Peace Studies, Platforma 112, Croatia‚
  • Jeta Xharra‚ Director, Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN), Kosovo‚
  • Dragana Pećo‚ Investigate Journalist, Krik, Serbia‚
  • Chair: Goran Buldioski‚ Program Director of the Open Society Think Tank Fund and Co-director of the Open Society Initiative for Europe‚