|Sasa Jankovic faces almost regular attacks for his work. Photo: Beta|
Serbia’s rulers have not got used to the idea of an Ombudsman who can hold government to account, Sasa Jankovic says.
“This might be the fourth government I’ve worked with and none of them can boast of having fully embraced [the idea of] being under independent scrutiny from this post. Each responds [to criticism] with smaller or bigger attacks,” Jankovic told BIRN.
He says that as the independent state oversight agencies grew in capacity and public trust, the succeeding governments increasingly saw them as an obstacle, even an enemy, and the government of Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic has at certain point gone further than all the others.
“The difference [between this and former governments] may be that this government thought it had the credit with the public and the international community to do whatever it wants, as long as it guarantees elemental stability,” he says.
“The Government showed readiness to do whatever it takes to get rid of the thorns in its hide, but both the Serbian society and international community awakened at one point and protected the Protector”, Jankovic [who holds constitutional title “Protector of Citizens”] adds.
On February 26, the Ombudsman was among the three public figures to receive the prestigious Civil Courage Award, together with Rodoljub Sabic, the Public Information Commissioner, and Vesna Rakic Vodinelic, a law professor.
The award, which bears the name of Dragoljub Stosic, a union leader and a democracy campaigner, is given annually to people “who defy and publicly oppose the autocratic rules of conduct and of life, and who, because of their public activity, are living under pressure and threats, but who never give up their fight for a better tomorrow”.