As part of the Future of Freedom of Information in Serbia (FFIS) project, Partners Serbia organized seven debates for 200 students and young people from universities in Novi Sad, Belgrade, Nis and Becej.
The first student debate, entitled “Is it Wise to Speak Your Mind?”, was organized on April 11, 2019 at the Belgrade Open School in Belgrade. The debate gathered students from the 26th generation of the Educational Program on Future Studies. The students were separated into four groups, based on the Westminster Debate Model, and given time to develop their debate arguments. Vladimir Medjak and Marko Selic provided support for students in preparing for the debate.
The second and third debate were organized on May 21 and 22, 2019 in Novi Sad and Nis. In Novi Sad, law students and journalists engaged in debate on the topic of transparency of judicial authorities and the limits of privacy in media reporting. In Nis, law students engaged in debate on the topic of paying gratitude to medical staff in the context of corruption.
Partners Serbia, in cooperation with the Faculty of Law and Business Studies Dr. Lazar Vrkatic, organized a fourth debate on May 27, 2019 in Novi Sad entitled “Professional Integrity and Ethics of My Future Profession”. Professors and students from all educational programs at the Faculty discussed diverse topics, including the importance of professional integrity, codes of ethics and professional conduct, sanctions that these codes regulate, plagiarism, gifts, corruption, data leakage from the Ministry of Interior and other institutions, inhuman treatment, and life imprisonment.
Partners Serbia, Becej Youth Association and Bureau for Social Research (BIRODI) organized a fifth debate on June 6, 2019 with students from Becej High School entitled “Openly Discussing Corruption”. During the debate, students discussed topics including corruption, public finances, information access procedures, the importance of open and transparent institutions, integrity and activism of citizens at the local level, and reasons why young people today are not more involved in the fight against corruption.
Belgrade Open School and Partners Serbia organized a sixth debate on November 14, 2019 for students from the current generation of the Education Program on Future Studies entitled “Does the Public Have the Right to Know Everything?”. Djordje Pavicevic, a professor from the Faculty of Political Science in Belgrade, and Vesna Radojevic, a Crime and Corruption Reporting Network (KRIK) journalist, helped students prepare for the debate. The first team argued that the public should know everything because the citizens need information about the choice of public officials, but also to prevent disasters like the one in Chernobyl, while the other team argued that the public should not know everything because it can cause panic, but also make the illusion of knowledge use too much information.
The seventh and final debate was organized on November 2019 at the Faculty of Law in Nis on the topic “Does a Whistleblower Have Legal Protection or a Target on His Back?”. Professor Ivan Ilic helped organize the debate, during which students were separated into two debate teams. One team argued that a whistleblower has adequate legal protection in Serbia, while the other team presented an opposite opinion.
All seven debates helped students develop a better understanding of important social values, including democracy, rule of law, accountability, transparency and freedom of speech. Each debate encouraged students to share their point of view and take part in other activities related to the protection of these values within their local communities.
The debates were organized as part of the FFIS project, which Partners Serbia has been implementing since 2018 in cooperation with the BIRODI and Law Scanner, and with financial support from the European Union. The FFIS project aims to actively involve civil society organizations and young people (primarily students) in defending the public’s right to know, in order to ensure the use of transparency and accountability standards in Serbia. In addition, through strengthening mechanisms for citizen participation and free media reporting, it promotes and supports the rule of law, primarily in the context of European integration, thus contributing to the overall reform and democratization process.