Digital activism as a disruption to political and media hegemony in Serbia

As part of a series of ‘Views from Belgrade’, ODV Digital shares a local perspective on the opportunities and challenges facing campaigners in Serbia


With the development of social networks and digital political campaigning, sometimes it seems we forget how big an impact TV still has on people and their political views. In Serbia today we have a President and ruling party – the conservative/nationalist (and contradictorily-named) Serbian Progressive Party (Srpska napredna stranka – SNS) – who control most national TV channels and tabloid newspapers (political control of media deemed to be between 55% and 70%). Meanwhile 63% of people still watch one of the four main TV stations regularly, all of which are “pro-Government”. 

Living in a country like Serbia, where even “independent” media are not as objective as they purport, genuine progressives have no choice but to inform their political knowledge through social networks. Similarly, opposition parties have no choice but to reach their voters through social networks. Regulation for digital campaigning is not perfect, it can be improved, but in countries like Serbia, digital campaigning is the only choice for opposition and progressive voices.

Even in this context, digital activism in Serbia is not sufficiently developed. It starts and ends on Twitter, the most popular social network here for political activism. There is not enough effort to reach people who do not share the same political view; information goes in a circle of the same groups of people (the famous political echo chambers). 

A successful progressive political movement would take a lot of time and patience, especially because of bad conditions in the media and very spread botnet. For countries like Serbia, while we are still far from democracy, digital campaigning could provide the answer to circumvent pro-regime media control. 

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