Is there any reason to celebrate the Day of Journalists in Montenegro?

Centre for Civic Education (CCE), ahead of 23 January, the Day of Journalists of Montenegro, takes opportunity to remind about increasingly more difficult position of journalists and independent media outlets in Montenegro, as well as indifference of the authorities to contribute to creating a favorable environment for development of media.

To this date, countless physical attacks on journalists in Montenegro, the independent media and their property remained unexplained, as well as murder of the editor in chief of daily “Dan”. In recent years, this burden that sits on the back of all who work in the media, is strengthened by working conditions of journalists that became drastically difficult, as well as the subsequent departure of many from this profession due to poor salaries, which in overall had its expression in decline of professionalism in reporting.

Even the latest CCE research “Equal opportunities for all media” notes that financing of media from public funds in Montenegro remains unregulated, uncontrolled and opaque and that the necessary legal interventions were not made. The existing legal framework does not recognize the potential link between financing of media from public funds on various grounds and the impact of that money on media freedom and economic (in)stability of the media, nor does it view the advertising decisions as possible form of discrimination against the media and attempt to influence the editorial policy. Institutions in Montenegro still do not publish the total amount of public money that are annually allocating for marketing, advertising or financing media on other grounds, nor does any institution control the manner in which these funds are being distributed and spent. Finally, relevant institutions show no interest for solving this problem, although it is being matter of concern for the international community. This research indicated for years that the state is exerting an improper influence on the media market, through non-transparent and selective financial allocations of public funds, through advertising and marketing, but also other forms of media financing. The European Commission has, in its Report for 2016 on Montenegro, positioned this question as one of the four priorities in the context of freedom of expression, thus CCE expects a finally meaningful progress in achieving sustainable solution in 2017.

We remind that Freedom House, in its last report on freedom of media, gave Montenegro a grade 41 (0 – the best, 100 – the worst), according to which Montenegro falls within partially free countries in terms of media freedom, with the deteriorated grade from 2015 (which was 39 to 41 and dropped to 34th position in Europe).

CCE emphasizes that the role of media in development of a democratic society is irreplaceable and that authorities are obliged to ensure that all media and journalists have conditions for free work without any pressure or any form of censorship.
Challenges that media are facing in Montenegro lead to the fact that public is increasingly devoid of unbiased information, and employees in the media are in an increasingly difficult economic situation.

Day of Journalists in Montenegro is celebrated in memory of 23 January 1871, when first issue of the newspaper “Crnogorac” was publicized in Cetinje.

Svetlana Pešić, programme associate