The Government should unblock RTCG contracts and demonstrate that it works for public and not party interest

The Government of Montenegro has, to a significant extent, generated problems that RTCG has been facing in the previous period, through institutional mechanisms at her disposal, thus demonstrating that it primarily protects the party interest, more precisely the interest of the ruling Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS), and not the public interest. 

Namely, the Government has been blocking signing of the Contract between the Government and RTCG on provision of public broadcasting services 2018-2020 for months, which is an obligation arisen by last amendments to the Law on Public Broadcasting Services of RTCG. This was followed by efforts of the Government to include obligations through that contract which are not imposed to any public service in democratic states by any similar contracts, by which the Government would also formally annul independence of the public service by overtaking the jurisdiction of the RTCG Council.

Furthermore, the Government refuses to adopt collective agreement of RTCG. The Ministry of Finance gave a positive opinion on the contract, which management of the RTCG has submitted to the Government for approval four months ago, however the Ministry of Culture does not want to suggest signing to the Government because allegedly the adoption of the new Labour Law is being awaited, for which nobody even knows when or whether it will be adopted in the Government of Montenegro. This explanation is unheard-of in the practice of arranged democratic states, since it leads to complete legal uncertainty thus undermining also foundations of the rule of law.

By blocking these two contracts, the Government exerts political pressure on RTCG due to its dissatisfaction that the public service is not a party media and that it made first small steps towards transformation to true public service in the service of all citizens. 

Additionally, its pertinent official, Director General of the Directorate for Media, Zeljko Rutovic, via his public performances on media close to the authorities, entirely exposes actions of the Government against current administration of RTCG. Moreover, Rutovic had no reactions on numerous examples of unprofessional and unlawful reporting of media which serve him as a megaphone against RTCG now, nor he had complaints on work of RTCG when it was ruled by his own sister, when RTCG noted far higher number of complaints on reporting and far less trust of citizens of Montenegro.

Finally, it is noteworthy to reflect upon argumentation of Government’s high officials which they are presenting during communication with representatives of the most influential institutions and member states of the EU and NATO. They claim that public service does not reflect majority attitudes in Montenegro thereby reflecting the extent to which they do not understand the concept of freedom of media and public services. Management of the public service is not selected on the basis of elections and with a reason – because reporting of public service as per it mission and the law should reflect pluralism of opinions and not the ruling party attitude.

Strategy of the Government not to send its highest representatives in the most viewed shows of a dialogue type on RTCG is also unfruitful. The Prime Minister and members of the Government who respect such party attitude, demonstrate that the party is above their obligation towards the public to inform on their work and to cross arguments with disputants.

Such a strategy is logically followed by the recent call to the Agency for Prevention of Corruption (APC) to reconsider its long time ago passed decisions on the basis of anonymous complaints against members of the RTCG Council. In this manner, the Government exerts inappropriate attempt to influence, now the APC, as an independent institution defined by the law. It is also possible that the purpose of this alleged appeal is to raise the concerns that APC is now protecting the remaining members of the RTCG Council against whom misdemeanor proceedings were also initiated and who now in majority give the support to attitudes of the Government.

Therefore, we call on the Government to unblock contracts with RTCG and that its highest officials, in accordance with their public obligations which they have towards the public, expose their work to criticism of the said public through participation in the RTCG shows rather than to follow the party’s attitude and continue to endanger the public interest.

Ana Novakovic, Executive Director, Center for Development of Non-Governmental Organisations (CDNGO)
Daliborka Uljarevic, Executive Director, Centre for Civic Education (CCE)
Stevo Muk, President of the Management Board, Institute alternative (IA)
Zlatko Vujovic, President of the Management Board, Center for Monitoring and Research (CeMI)