The weekend 16-18/11/2018 the Young Liberals hosted the 5th Liberal Laboratory (LibLab) for 2018. The workshop took place in Thessaloniki with the support of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom. Participants came from Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Hungary, Serbia, Turkey and USA.
The title of the LibLab 18.5 was “Freedom of Expression in the Balkans” aiming to open the discussion for serious issues that Balkan countries have to deal with. The participants had the opportunity to approach and study what is freedom of expression and why this is important. In addition to, they worked in groups and tried to identify in what level are Balkan countries free and what problems every country has to face and solve.
On Friday’s dinner we had the opportunity to introduce ourselves and share our thoughts for our countries. Next day, we started with a topic “Liberalism and freedom of speech for me”. In this context participants could freely express their feelings and promote their personal view about liberalism and freedom of speech. It was a good and productive discussion where different opinions were heard.
Moreover, there were three presentations. First one, was about “Freedom of expression in Western Balkans” from Eleni Sipikoudi, second one was about “Freedom of expression in Erdogan’s Turkey” from Professor Burak Bilgehan Özpek and the last one was about “Fake news and propaganda networks”. These three presentations gave the space for more questions and discussion. The participants were familiarized with a range of serious topics, such as the current situation in Western Balkan’s media and in Turkey’s media under the Erdogan’s ruling. In addition to, we familiarize ourselves with the problem of fake news and the propaganda networks. To understand better the framework, there was references in Balkan’s historic, cultural and political roots.
The discussion on freedom of expression in this specific region makes us understand problems that we previously ignored. These problems have to do with media freedom violations, abuse of the Legal System for Media Control, assaults and intimidation against Media owners and journalists and dominance of Pro-government Media in many cases.
Last but not least, participants worked in groups and prepared a small paper discussing about different subjects. The discussions focused on Balkan peculiarities, freedom of expression in Balkan region, core problems and proposition to resolve these problems. The Young Liberals unanimously came to the conclusion that freedom of expression is essential for a democratic country, because it is a fundamental right for every single person. So, the important thing that we all have to focus on is to support and promote liberal values and ideas to achieve a democratic environment where the freedom of expression will be a reality and every individual will be freely express his believes.