The Protector of Citizens identified numerous shortcomings in the work of multiple competent bodies that for seven years following the Government of Serbia’s decision adoption have been failing to form appropriate centers for foster care and adoption, which would make possible appropriate support to children and foster families, and ordered urgent measures for rectifying the shortcomings.

The omissions in the work have been committed by the Ministry of Labor, Employment, Veteran and Social Policy, the Ministry of Finance and local self-government units; whereas the Recommendations for improving the work were issued to the Ministries where the omissions were identified, and to the Ministry of State Administration and Local Self-government, Republic and Provincial Institute for Social Protection and the Provincial Secretariat for Social Policy, Demography and Gender Equality.

In an own-initiative investigation, the Protector of Citizens determined that out of eight centers that were planned, seven centers for foster care and adoption were established on the territory of the Republic of Serbia, and only one of them operates within the field of foster care at the entire territory, for which it was established. Other centers took over the competence only in the territory which, according to the number of employees and based on the standard of work with foster families, they could take over.

It was also determined that the Center Subotica was founded in 2018, but that it has not yet started working, while the Center Bela Crkva, envisaged by the Decree of the Government of the Republic of Serbia on the Network of Social Welfare Institutions, has not been established. The operations within the field of foster care in territories that have not been taken over by the centers for foster care and adoption are still carried out by the already overburdened social welfare centers.

None of the established centers that perform activities has an adequate number of employees, the Center Subotica not included, as it was established and has not started working and has no employees at all. Established centers provide support for less than half of the total number of children in foster care and for less than half of the total number of foster families in the country. More precisely, more than half of the children in family accommodation and more than half of the foster families are not provided with specialized support.

The Protector of Citizens also determined that even after 12 years from the adoption of the Rulebook on Foster Care, as well as 9 years since the adoption of the new Law on Social Welfare, foster care is not even close to the extent envisaged and provided for by the regulations.

In the Recommendation, the Protector of Citizens demanded all competent authorities to rectify the identified shortcomings without delay, to provide specialized training for foster parents and continuous and timely assistance and support. The Protector of Citizens believes that the solution to the problem must be sought in the amendments to the regulations governing this area, in order to monitor the needs that arise in practice.

Protector of Citizens, Mr. Zoran Pašalić, called today for the formation of a single database on all types of attacks on journalists, which, in addition to verbal and physical attacks, would also contain parameters that determine all types of economic pressures to which the representatives of this profession are exposed in performing their work.

“Special attention should be given to economic pressures which the journalists have been daily exposed to, and which have been critical for their work performance. The pressures challenge everyday life and work of journalists, their survival in the newsroom, and in the long run the survival of this profession.” Mr. Pašalić said following the meeting of the Working Group for the development of an action plan for the implementation of the Media Strategy.

At the meeting organized by the Ministry of Culture and Information, Mr. Pašalić advocated that a single database should be set up, which would also include economic pressures, and added that, according to the records of complaints received by the Institution of the Protector of Citizens, most problems were caused by economic status and position.

The Protector of Citizens accentuated that this institution had confidence in the existing databases on attacks on journalists kept by professional associations, but that their unmatched data posed a concern.

“In every profession, there are subjective viewpoints regarding the parameters and ways which should be used when something needs to be determined. The most objective parameters and criteria can be provided by an independent body and therefore the Protector of Citizens stands ready to provide it, if all journalist associations agree.” Mr. Pašalić stated at the meeting.

Mr. Pašalić added that in order to achieve that, it was important to what extent journalists associations would accept that someone independent and without a subjective viewpoint defined and classified by groups what journalists' associations and prosecutor's offices had recorded, the data which had most often been divergent.

“A consensus should be reached that this platform brings together existing databases and everything that has not been recorded so far. The institution of the Protector of Citizens is ready to technically fully support the formation of such a base. This requires the consensus of all associations and journalists who would be involved in the work of this platform”, the Protector of Citizens stated.

He announced that in the near future, based on the data on attacks on journalists at its disposal, the Institution of the Protector of Citizens would create a systematized database of what should be recorded and that with the consent of all journalists' associations, the already recorded pressures and attacks on journalists, as well as the data of the public prosecutor's office, would be included in it.

After learning from the media about the constant increase in the number of employees contracting the coronavirus at the "Yura" company branch in Niš, the Protector of Citizens instigated another investigation of controlling work legality and regularity of the Ministry of Labor, Employment, Veteran and Social Policy in order to determine all relevant facts and circumstances.

This new control investigation has been instigated against the Labor Inspectorate after the Protector of Citizens, in early August 2020, completed the investigation instigated for the same reasons, and issued an Opinion to the Ministry of Labor, Employment, Veteran and Social Policy.

However, a few days ago, the Protector of Citizens learned from the media about a new wave of infections by SARS-CoV-2 virus at “Yura Corporation Ltd” – the branch in Niš and a steady increase in the number of patients among persons employed and engaged by this employer.

The Protector of Citizens learned from the media that the City Emergency Task Force in Niš met over this issue and stated that the Niš plant "Yura Corporation Ltd" did not respect the protective measures; the Task Force could not impose measures on private employers which was why the competent state bodies needed to be addressed.

Due to this situation among employees in the plant, the Protector of Citizens instigated a new investigation to control the work legality and regularity of the Labor Inspectorate within the Ministry of Labor, Employment, Veteran and Social Policy and to determine all the circumstances in this case.

The Protector of Citizens, in the control investigation, determined omissions in the work of the Commissariat for Refugees and Migration (KIRS) and the Ministry of Interior of the Republic of Serbia (MOI RS) over failing to escort and accommodate 16 migrants in the premises of Preševo Reception Center, which is why they arbitrarily went in an unknown direction. KIRS and the Ministry of Interior submitted to the Protector of Citizens divergent data on the time of transfer of migrants from the Tutin Asylum Center to the Preševo Reception Center on 3 April 2020.

In doing so, Commissariat for Refugees and Migration, RC Preševo and the Ministry of Interior, Novi Pazar Police Administration failed to prevent free movement of persons who may be COVID-19 virus carriers, thus augmenting the danger of spreading the contagious disease in the territory of the Republic of Serbia, the Protector of Citizens’ Recommendation reads.

After learning that the media published details from the verdict for sexual intercourse with a child, which they excerpted from the Novi Sad High Court’s press release, the Protector of Citizens instigated the investigation of controlling work legality and regularity of the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Serbia requesting the monitoring of the Court’s administration work.

Given the possibility that the child's right to privacy has been violated, the Protector of Citizens requires the Ministry of Justice to monitor the work of the court administration of the High Court in Novi Sad to determine whether the court’s press release, published by the media, was in accordance with the provision of Article 58 of the Court’s Rules of Procedure and the child’s best interests.

The texts published in the media and on social networks provided information from the aggrieved child’s personal and family life, as well as details regarding the events that constitute criminal offences, which, according to the texts, were taken from the Novi Sad High Court’s press release, the Protector of Citizens states.

"I have seen for myself on multiple occassions that newspaper articles and publications that can cause an immediate sensation in the public leave severe consequences and great trauma for children for the rest of their lives," the Protector of Citizens Mr. Zoran Pašalić said.

Mr. Pašalić once again urges all journalists and media editors to take care primarily of the protection of child’s best interests and then to the protection of their privacy, which does the Law, when publishing any data on child abuse, even court decisions.

The Protector of Citizens requests the Ministry of Justice to submit information on the results of the performed supervision within 15 days, with a copy of the relevant documentation.

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