State bodies have to protect its opponents

Regarding the statement of the organizing committee of the conference “Word, Image and the Enemy”, followed by feature within “Minut, dva” show on TV Pink M and text in “Pobjeda”, which attempts to label the executive director of the CCE, Daliborka Uljarević, as a terrorist only because she warned of the possibility that protests, such as those in Bosnia and Herzegovina, may occur also in Montenegro, we condemn this act and request that the responsible state authorities for protection of human rights act and prevent drawing a target to opponents as well as attacks that are announced and encouraged at the expense of freedom of expression in Montenegro.

Text of the previously mentioned press statement of the organizing committee of conference “Word, Image and the Enemy” represents the latest attempt to intimidate non-governmental organizations in Montenegro and other critics of the authorities. In Montenegro there is a continuous campaign being conducted to prepare the Montenegrin public for violence against non-governmental organizations and other opponents of the ruling politicians and state officials. There is a persistent effort to convince the public that the key non-governmental organizations and their leaders are “criminals,” “thieves,” “violent,” “war instigators” and that therefore one should fight them. Although we are aware that activists of non-governmental organizations as public figures are required to have a higher degree of tolerance for criticism, the latest reaction to the views of Daliborka Uljarević, in which she is extremely inappropriately being accused for “war propaganda,” we perceive as announcement of confrontation, after the media, also with the key representatives of non-governmental organizations.

By this joint statement we want to clearly underline that for all eventual attacks, due to various forms of pressure so far, we hold accountable the Government of Montenegro, because it is obliged to ensure everyone a safe environment for freedom of expression, regardless of political stance, and it especially must refrain itself from implementation of threatening campaigns that lead to endangering the citizens and their human rights. The campaign, which is continuously being conducted via daily “Pobjeda”, which is in majority state-ownership, the television PINK M and the conference “Word, Image and the Enemy”, in whose managing board are even two representatives of the Government – from the Ministry for Human and Minority Rights – Irena Bošković and from the Ministry of Culture – Željko Rutović, obviously represents implementation of determined plan of intimidating the leading non-governmental organizations and other critics of the situation in the country, which, as it appears to be, is supported by the Government.

We urge state authorities, primarily the Government of Montenegro, namely, Minister for Human and Minority Rights Suad Numanović and Minister for Culture Branislav Mićunović, as well as the Ombudsman, to condemn the attacks coming from bodies and media in which the representatives of the Government are and which the Government is financing. The absence of a clear distancing and condemnation of the campaign of organizers of conference “Word, Image and the Enemy” and the state’s “Pobjeda” against the Constitution guaranteed right to freedom of expression will mean an additional call for attacks on non-governmental organizations and other critics of situation in the society or government policy.

1. Ana Novaković, Executive Director, Centre for Development of NGOs (CRNVO)
2. Zlatko Vujović, President of Governing Board, CEMI
3. Stevo Muk, President of Governing Board, Institute Alternative
4. Marina Vujačić, Executive Director, Association of Youth with Disabilities of Montenegro
5. Milan Šaranović, Director General, Centre for Anti-Discrimination EKVISTA
6. Ivana Vujović, Executive Director, Juventas
7. Danijel Kalezić, President of Governing Board, Queer Montenegro
8. Ljupka Kovačević, Coordinator, Centre for Women and Peace Education ANIMA
9. Ljiljana Raičević, President, Shelter
10. Sabina Talović, Executive Director, Bona Fidae
11. Tea Gorjanc Prelević, Executive Director, Human Rights Action
12. Maja Raičević, Executive Director, Center for Women Rights
13. Goran Đurović, Member of Council of the RTCG