Concerning silence of prosecutions about the attack on the journalist

The Centre for Civic Education (CCE) condemns the attack on the journalist of the daily ‘Dan’, Vladimir Otasevic, which, according to this daily paper occurred on 3 December 2019, at shopping mall ‘Delta City’. Physical violence cannot and should not be a response to any act of a journalists, especially if it concerns public interest that guided that journalist. The CCE urges the Prosecutorial Council to urgently investigate whether behaviour of the prosecutor Milos Soskic is in accordance with the Code of Ethics for State Prosecutors and consenquently to process this case. Also, the CCE calls upon the management of the Police administration, as well as the Council for the civil control of the police work, to make their position towards the behavior of the police officer who was involved in this incident.

It is a public interest to inform citizens of Montenegro with whom state prosecutors are in company and to what extent it contributes to the integrity of the Prosecutor’s Office, particularly bearing in mind that there is a need to work on raising the extremely low level of trust into Prosecutor’s Office, as recently and rightly has been pointed out by the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Justice Zoran Pazin. We express concern about the fact that one prosecutor silently observed the attack on a journalist, regardless of the form and intensity of the attack. From professional and ethical, as well as patriotic standpoint, it is the prosecutor who should at least try to prevent such a conflict. The question is: would such a prosecutor observe if, for example, someone attacking his colleague or the harassment of journalists became common in this country? Is the problem even greater when members of police forces are involved? And does this only contribute to the continuous decline of Montenegro in all international rankings that measure the level of media freedom, but also the manner in which the state and its institutions protect journalists?

The mission of the journalists is to be guided by the public interest, not only during their or public officials’ work time. State prosecutors should be persons of integrity who, through their actions, gain the confidence of citizens at any time of the day and in any situation. If someone believes that the approach or manner of journalists’ reporting is unprofessional, there are various mechanisms that could be used, such as the Ombudsman, which the daily ‘Dan’ has. Conflict, especially physical one, as well as threats, cannot contribute neither to freedom of media and expression nor to the efforts of the civic sector, the media, but also the Government to improve the situation in this area. Therefore, this incident is also strike for the official policy of the Government when it comes to advocacy for improvement of media freedoms.

We point out that the adequate processing of the prosecutor Soskic and a police officer is not only important because of the European Commission report, State Department, Freedom House, Reporters Without Borders – but because of the environment in which we live and act and the imperative that violence can never be a solution.

Damir Nikocevic, Development Coordinator