Serious improvements of Draft Media Law are necessar

Centre for Civic Education (CCE) has prepared and submitted to the Ministry of Culture 15 amendments to the Draft Media Law , within the public discussion which this Ministry has earlier published.

The most obvious indicator of shortcomings of the legal text offered by the Ministry of Culture for the public discussion is also number of received amendments, as well as the full consent of significant part of the media community and non-governmental organizations dealing with freedom of expression and media. This was also contributed by the strange decision of the Government to enter into drafting of the Media Law without assessment of the application of current Lawthat would point to the necessary interventions, and to which the CCE has been warning continuously.

Furthermore, it should be emphasized that the Media Directorate of the Ministry of Culture, as the carrier of the drafting process of the new Media Law, has rendered meaningless all previous efforts, which were in accordance with the best international standards and practices,to systematically improve the framework and environment for work of the media in Montenegro. Hence, the CCE does not expect even the submitted amendments to receive proper support and to find their place in the final text of the Law, especially knowing that the international experts’ opinion about this text were also gravely ignored. All of this, naturally, can only contribute to further deepening of problems in the area of media and strengthen the trend of bad ratings that Montenegro records in relevant international reports.

The CCE has, from the very beginning, insisted on different approach, which would go from comprehensive analysis, via adoption of the media strategy, and then to the new law. We still assess that wider social dialogue of various stakeholders is necessary, as well as objective review of the state of affairs in media, and then proposal of solution that will take all this into account.

Although a completely wrong sequence of steps has been made in this process, the CCE will advocate for the proposed amendments to the very end, through available mechanisms and try to contribute thus to improvement of the proposed legal solutions. The public interest is the existence of media which can remain independent and persistent despite obvious political and economic influence and pressures, and thus contribute to construction of responsible institutions, and the duty of the authorised institutions is to create such a framework. This Draft Media Law does not provide that, although it has good elements and solutions, and hence needs to be further seriously improved.

The CCE’s amendments, for the most part, propose the definition of glossary, objectives and subject of the lawas prerequisite for understanding the purpose of its adoption, but also of the very terms in the context of the proposed solutions. In particular this refers to the precise definition of the term of media, in order to make it clear whom the proposed solutions relate to. Additionally, we propose more precise defining of articles related to transparency of media financing from public funds, through specifying of the Media Records, jurisdiction of the Ministry of Culture, responsibility of public sector bodies and consequences of not registering media in the Records. We insist on greater protection of journalists’ sources, integrity of journalists, wider scope of access to information of public importanceand obligation of the holders of public authority to provide accurate, complete and timely information on issues within their scope of work, as well as defining their responsibility in cases of failure to provide the requested information to the media.

In addition to these amendments, the CCE has also supported the proposals, suggestions and comments submitted jointly by the Montenegrin Media Institute, NGO Media Centre, Association of Professional Journalists of Montenegro (APJM), Centre for Investigative Journalism of Montenegro (CIJ MNE), CCE, editor of “Dan” Nikola Markovic, and journalists Mihailo Jovovic and Vladan Micunovic.

Milos Knezevic, PR/Programme Associate