There is no democratization of the society without the media freedom

On the occasion of 3 May – World Press Freedom Day, the Centre for Civic Education (CCE) wants to congratulate to all media, media associations and journalists their day. This date is also an opportunity to point out to the deteriorating situation concerning media freedom, but also to call again institutions to make substantial efforts in order to create basis for improvement of the position of media and journalists in Montenegro.

The latest Report of Reporters without Borders confirmed the tendency of erosion of media freedom in Montenegro. It should also be emphasized that Montenegro is mentioned within the introductory part of the index, reserved for examples of countries in which the situation in this area causes particular concern. In its 2018 Country report, the European Commission noted that no progress has been made within media freedom, and this is also confirmed in JUFREX analyses by the Council of Europe experts, done with the support of the European Commission, which elaborates in detail media legislation and numerous problems in the media scene itself.

Unresolved attacks on journalists, with the latest brutal attack on journalist Oliver Lakic that occured a year ago, represent disturbing picture of the environment in which journalists operate.

We have witnessed also political party overtaking of the Radio Television of Montenegro (RTCG) that annulled the independence of the public broadcaster – firstly through politically motivated and illegal dismissal of unsuitable members of the Council, and later on through the abuse of the project funded by the EU, and implemented by the CCE, in order to illegally dismiss former Director General of RTCG, Andrijana Kadija, and director of TVCG, Vladan Micunovic, as also confirmed by court verdicts. The consequence is current editorial policy of the news programme of RTCG that does not fulfil legally prescribed public service functions – satisfying democratic, social, educational, cultural, and other needs of public interest of all segments of Montenegrin society, ensuring the realization of rights and interests of citizens and other subjects in the informing area, regardless of their political, religious, racial or gender affiliation (Article 2, Law on National Public Broadcaster Radio and Television of Montenegro).

Long lasting avoidance of the Agency for Electronic Media (AEM) to consistently apply the Law on Electronic Media with non-transparent and discretionary funding of media from public funds that the Government refuses to properly regulate, and what the CCE has been pointing out for years, has created unfair competition at the media market. This all creates enormous limitations of achieving the basic role of the media as a protector of democracy through objective, timely and investigative reporting.

In an attempt to constructively contribute to stopping the regression of media freedom, the CCE actively participated in the Working group and submitted proposals for the Draft Media Law, as well as amendments to the Law on Electronic Media and the Law on Public Broadcasting Radio and Television of Montenegro (RTCG).

It is public interest that the media and journalists in Montenegro deal with the facts, not manipulations and defamation, to be resistant to political and other pressures while protecting their own profession. The CCE will, within its capabilities, continue to stimulate dialogue on these issues, but also to contribute to the necessary improvement of the framework for free work of media.

Damir Nikocevic, Developement Coordinator