Condemning attacks on academic freedom

Peaceful Change initiative strongly condemns the threats made against academics from the Faculty of Political Science at the University of Belgrade in Serbia.

A group of people demonstrating in front of the University of Belgrade.
Demonstration in support of Jelena Lončar, Stefan Surlić, and Marko Veković. Photo: Twitter/@parun_

We stand in solidarity with our colleagues Jelena Lončar, Stefan Surlić, and Marko Veković, who have demonstrated considerable courage and determination in the face of attempts to brand them as ‘traitors’.

Such intimidation constitutes a fundamental attack on academic freedom. It is imperative that scholars be free to pursue knowledge and explore ideas without fearing for their security or safety. We are encouraged by the outpourings of support and solidarity they have received.

The research each has undertaken has contributed to the body of understanding about relations within and between Kosovo and Serbia. They have fostered vital links that have deepened understanding about the perceptions of different communities, and explored themes that shine a light on some of the contemporary challenges facing Kosovo and Serbia.

It is for these reasons that PCi supported an academic exchange between the Faculty of Political Science, University of Belgrade, and the Faculty of Philosophy, University of Prishtina, as part of our UK-government funded project, ‘Amplifying Local Voices for Equitable Development’ (ALVED).

Their research is intended to guide and inspire other aspiring academics, who should be free to pursue their academic interests without fear of reprisal. The academic community should be about debate and disagreement, no matter how sensitive the topic, not self-censorship deriving from concerns about what their peers will think.

Where such incidents are not firmly condemned, they are tacitly supported. As such, it is incumbent on all authorities to voice their opposition to such acts and to ensure that they are thoroughly investigated. All perpetrators should be brought to justice.

We will continue to support all those who seek to improve understanding between those in Kosovo and Serbia, for the future of our communities depends upon deepening our knowledge about one another.