The Centre for Civic Education (CCE) expresses deep concern over the initiation of misdemeanour proceedings against citizen Milija Goranovic, due to a posted comment on Facebook referring to the director of the Police Administration, Veselin Veljovic, and especially over the fact that the competent Misdemeanour Court has imposed a sanction in this case.
Although the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR) prescribes minimum of the rights and freedoms which each signatory state must respect, this example shows that Montenegro has not reached that minimum of standards even after sixteen years of implementation of the Convention.
The specific case represents restriction on freedom of expression protected by Article 10 of the Convention, hence it was necessary to apply the so-called three-part test of the case law of the European Court of Human Rights, which requires an assessment of the legality, legitimacy and necessity of such restrictions in a democratic society. In accordance with the case-law of the Strasbourg Court, it was also necessary to determine whether these were value judgments or statements of facts, and to apply standards that require significantly higher degree of tolerance of public officials in comparison to individuals.
The fact that all this was not done in the particular case indicates the necessity to educate police officers, and especially judicial officials, to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms.
The CCE does not affirm insulting speech in the public discourse, nor does it consider that it is an adequate manner of voicing criticism. However, we assess that the repressive reaction of the state authorities, in this case, is actually more socially dangerous than the insult addressed.
The CCE reminds that Montenegro has been recording regression in the process of Europeanization and democratization for quite some time, and that all relevant international reports emphasize the challenges of media freedom and freedom of expression. It is about time that Montenegrin authorities take seriously that this approach hinders the country’s path towards EU, and more importantly, endangers the already weak system of the rule of law through (in)direct influences on the judicial system and selective law application.
Maja Marinović, Programme Associate