CRTA Director’s speech from the OSCE Democracy Defender Award 2018 ceremony

Speech given by Vukosava Crnjanski, CRTA director, on the OSCE Democracy Defender award ceremony that took place at Schwedenhaus Wien on March 16th 2018:


“Your Excellencies, Members of Award Committee, dear friends and colleagues,

On behalf of the CRTA team, I would like to express our most sincere gratitude and to thank you for honoring CRTA with the “Democracy Defender Award 2018”.

This award belongs to all the people who inspired and motivated us never to give up from democracy! This is why we devote Democracy Defender Award to all citizens, civil society organizations, journalists and activists in Serbia that committed their lives and careers to defending democracy.

This award comes in times of the shrinking space for independent civil society efforts, not only in Serbia but in many parts of the OSCE region. As it gives additional strength and relevance to our fight for democracy, it furthers our motivation and courage to keep on acting in times of distrust – in governments, in media, and in each other. The recognition as a Democracy Defender gives us great responsibility to protect what we have achieved together. We share a joint responsibility to address an urgent need to work together, to close ranks, to inspire and motivate people who believe that democratic society is achievable and to offer a helping hand to those who feel betrayed and discouraged to act.

It is a great honor to receive this award and be named Democracy Defender along with other advocates and activists, unified in solidarity to defend values and principles of good governance, media freedom, human rights and democratization. Being side by side with Oleksandra Matviychuk, GOLOS movement and all those that are yet to come proves that we are not alone and gives us strength no matter how many challenges stand in our way.

As we celebrate this prestigious recognition, we are deeply concerned about the state of democracy in Serbia that is slowly backsliding.

At the same time, what we all witness today is that not even developed democracies are immune to democratic reversals. Foundations of democracy – free and fair elections, the rule of law, human rights – are shaken worldwide. They are being undermined by the waves of populism and the spreading patterns in which civil society and independent media are suppressed, portrayed as enemies of the state, closed down and endangered. As the space for independent, unbiased and credible reporting progressively closes, the public remains with fewer sources of information. Propaganda and disinformation rapidly occupy public sphere in an attempt to distort truth, threatening to undermine the very notion of democracy.

And democracy is not about promising simple solutions. It is never a one-man show. It never comes over night, nor is it exclusively an issue of someone else. The battle for democracy is neither easy nor temporary. It never ends. Being aware of that, we decided to endure, but we could not walk this road alone, as we could have never deserved this award alone.

We persist in our democratic action in Serbia for more than fifteen years. We do it together with people in our mission to bring true democratic changes and create society where citizens build democracy. We inform, educate and above all motivate people to engage and help our society strive in democratic development. Our goal is to empower citizens because our success is measured by the strength and courage of those who are afraid, volume of the voice of voiceless and respect of the rights of disrespected.

Within this effort, Democracy Defender Award only adds to our persistence, motivation and courage to continue our battle for democracy and defend its values and core principles whenever they are endangered.

Once again, I would like to thank you all very much for recognizing CRTA’s work and accomplishments and for all your democratization efforts and support in both Serbia and other fledgling democracies.”