Watchdogs and Whiners

imagesThere are two schools of government criticism: the Whining School and the Watchdog School.

At the Whining School, millions of people are taught to whine and complain about how miserable their lives are as a result of the government. The complaining is meant to do nothing more than expiate the misery. The Whining School teaches non-constructive criticism and generally seems to provide an excuse to grumble and cry about everything in this world which oppresses, hinders, and blocks.

It is a school which teaches victimization as a value. When we are victims, we need take no responsibility, and we cry out for others (whoever they may be) to rescue us from our horrible plight.

On the other side, however, is the Watchdog School. The Watchdogs are there to ensure that government is not overstepping its bounds. It points out abuses and misuses of power. The Watchdog School teaches that vigilance in matters of public policy is very important. It is based on the premise that public institutions belong, after all, to the public and that the public has a right to respond – congratulating successes and pointing out shortcomings. Continue reading

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MEDIA: The Smell of Fear

 


“On circumstantial evidence alone, media freedom seems to have packed up and caught the last train out of Serbia.”

We are suspWorld-press-freedom-day-index-covericious of good news.

I have been involved in and surrounded by news-gathering in Serbia since 2002, since almost the day I arrived. At that time, there was a feeling of cautious permission to write about almost anything – government scandals, ministerial misdeeds, and even satires. The feeling was that the free press had been restored, at least to a certain extent.

I started writing a column in a (now defunct) English news magazine and, at first, wrote it under a pseudonym – warned as I had been that the “authorities” could make trouble for me if they did not like my often critical satire or sarcasm. But that lasted only a short time and I resumed under my own flag within a few weeks.

The dread “authorities” either did not care or were not paying attention to my scribbling. I became more daring – I launched the occasional attack on governmental foolishness. I likened politicians to animals and arch-criminals. During that time, which spanned through recent years, I was only castigated a few times for one or another politician’s disgruntlement. But the reprimands were toothless. Uninspiring of fear.

As I go through the news and headlines and articles in the Serbian press these days, however, there is something which I have not experienced before. There is a smell of fear. This is not universal – some daring journalists and editors seem to ignore the scent – but it is there nevertheless. Continue reading