Media freedom as a human right – a case study of Sweden’s dedication to freedom of expression and it’s efforts in Serbia

In light of the increasing challenges posed by disinformation and propaganda, the role of diplomats becomes paramount in promoting transparency, democracy, and human rights.

In light of the increasing challenges posed by disinformation and propaganda, the role of diplomats becomes paramount in promoting transparency, democracy, and human rights. The Ambassador of Sweden in Belgrade, Annika Ben David, who has previously served among other positions as an Ambassador for Human Rights and the Rule of Law in Sweden, emphasizes the importance of upholding basic values, such as democracy, freedom, and the rule of law.

Annika Ben David has held a lecture within the Media Talks 2023 project in Novi Sad on Thursday the 09th of November 2023. Her lecture focused on disinformation in the public discourse – presenting Sweden’s perspective on the topic and it’s activities in Serbia to combat these forms of hybrid warfare.



Ambassador’s lecture continues:

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in 1948, remains a cornerstone in addressing political, cultural, and economic rights globally. It underscores the connection between disinformation and freedom of expression, a right intrinsic to every individual, irrespective of nationality or background. Her Excellency has addressed access to proper and unbiased information as a part of freedom of expression that is a part of the Declaration of Human Rights – she has pointed out the way Sweden is addressing this human right through it’s legislation and institutions.

However, as Sweden’s diplomatic efforts in Serbia reveal, challenges persist. Growing polarization, backsliding democracy, and a shrinking civil society present hurdles to the shared goal of a rule-based international order. The Swedish Embassy in Serbia actively supports the Western Balkan countries, working towards their integration into the European Union and fostering values like transparency and gender equality.

Yet, the landscape is complex, marked by the impact of disinformation campaigns. Namely, among other things, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022 that was partially prompted by the disinformation campaign in Russia, presenting the Ukrainian regime as a Nazi one – obviously not correct, but granted a lot of Russians justification to attacking it’s neighbour.

Moreover, Mrs. Ben David pointed out another conflict of Israel and Gaza, that fuels polarisation and the spread of disinformation, raising concerns about the increase in false narrative sharing around the world, undermining social cohesion.

In the last two years, Sweden was also targeted with disinformation campaigns by other countries, it’s Child Protection Services were targeted for kidnapping Muslim children and converting them to Christians as well as other scandal related to the public burning of Quran. These actions, aimed to put Sweden’s world image to the test, but also undermined Sweden’s internal security, seeing a rise in terrorism since these disinformation campaigns began.

Social media play a crucial role in spreading these kinds of narratives, in this sense, the Swedish position is stronger, pointing out that the majority of Swedish youth have the most trust in traditional media outlets, whereas the Serbian situation differes more – showing the latest study done by CRTA, where the majority of young people in Serbia get their information from social media.

Social media were initially seen as a beacon of hope for information sharing, is now fraught with competing narratives and misinformation. The European Union has responded with legislative measures, such as the Digital Services Act and Digital Market Act, aiming to create a safer digital space, holding social media companies accountable for the content find on them.

The Ambassador has concluded with a message to the students, pointing to that: as students and citizens, there’s a shared responsibility to strengthen freedom of expression and support the integrity of journalism. Adding also that media literacy, critical thinking, and vigilance are emphasized as essential tools to navigate an information landscape fraught with challenges.


In the context of Sweden’s long-term engagement with Serbia, there’s a commitment to supporting Serbia’s journey towards EU membership, with a focus on environmental initiatives, journalism, the rule of law, and gender equality. Despite challenges, this commitment reflects a dedication to the mutual prosperity of both nations.

The latest findings from CRTA indicating the youth’s decreasing interest in politics highlight the importance of ongoing efforts to engage and educate the younger generation about the impact of disinformation on political awareness and participation. As Sweden continues to collaborate with Serbia, it remains a testament to the enduring relationship between the two nations.


The project Media Talks 2023 focuses on different topics related to media, aimed at young people. The next two lectures within the project are in

Niš (Artificial Intelligence in Newsrooms), 16th of November on the Faculty of Philosophy of Niš and in

Belgrade (Accessible information for blind people), 23rd of November on the Faculty of Dramatic Arts in Belgrade.

Organizers of Media Talks are Heror Media Pont and MINORITY & LOCAL MEDIA DEVELOPMENT CENTER

Media Talks 2023 is done with support from the Swedish Embassy in Belgrade.

Patrons of the project are the Provincial Secretariat for Culture, Information and Relations with Religious Communities of the Authonomous province of Vojvodina and the City Administration for Culture of the City of Novi Sad.

Press release was done by Aradi Vladimir Huba

Photo: Heror Media Pont