Centre for Civic Education (CCE) expresses concern about the increasing frequency of detention of journalists, based on the assessment that the information they publish influence dissemination of panic and riots. Recent cases of journalists Gojko Raicevic and Drazen Zivkovic, and earlier of journalist Andjela Djikanovic, point to elements of abuse of such conduct by the Prosecution. There are self-regulatory and regulatory mechanisms for violation of professional standards, while this restrictive approach can be misused and poses a threat not for fake news but fot freedom of expression.
At the same time, the CCE urges all media and journalists to respect the Code of Journalists Ethics of Montenegro. We ourselves had negative experience during 2018 when we were targets of an unprecedented negative campaign with a large number of fake news publicised by part of media. Therefore, we appeal to all journalists to be guided by due journalistic diligence, professional standards and to verfy the information they publish.
On the other hand, alleged or actual journalistic omissions or errors should not be the reason to enter the field of freedom of expression through call for responsibility for this crime. Particular caution must be exercised when taking as responsible journalists or civic activists whom the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg recognise as public watchdogs.
Criminal law theorists define panic as sudden and significant harassment of citizens and sense of insecurity of greater intensity caused by an investigation due to the publicised information. As this is very sensitive area of freedom of expression, it is criucially important that the Prosecution and the Court, in each individual case, and in accordance with the standards of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, conduct the so-called a three-part test and explain each of its segments with arguments.
The application of the best European standards, to which our legislation also gives primacy, is extremely important so as not to get into the situation that the Prosecution’s institutional power is routinely used to limit any form of expression that is not desired by certain centres of power, and whose indications we get through some other examples these days. Also, this can be an indirect hidden threat to the critically oriented part of the public.
Freedom of expression is one of the basic pillars of the rule of law and an indicator which development is measured through the accession negotiation process of Montenegro. The CCE calls for extra caution all actors in order to avoid raising additional tensions in the already heated atmosphere after the adoption of the Law on freedom of religion or belief and the legal status of religious communities.
Damir NIKOCEVIC, Development Coordinator at the Centre for Civic Education (CCE)