The Agency for Electronic Media (AEM) reacted yesterday to an analysis of the Centre for Civic Education (CCE), accusing the CCE of publicising ‘series of false and unfounded assessments of the AEM’s work’. Thereby, precisely, only three allegedly incorrect and unsubstantiated assessments are listed, which are all unfounded.
The first of our allegedly “untrue and unfounded” assessments, according to the reaction of AEM’s Public Relations and General Affairs Department, ‘is that two cable TV stations (Happy TV and Pink M), with headquarters in Serbia, are sanctioned because they have severely attacked the Montenegrin authorities in their programmes for passing the Law on Freedom of Religion and that it was the result of a direct political influence on AEM decisions’.
Second of our allegedly “untrue and unfounded” assessment is ‘that the Council of the Agency for Electronic Media (CAEM) tolerated serious professional standards’ violations over the years at the expense of opponents of Montenegrin authorities in broadcasts of the Pink M television, resorting only to warning measures’.
The Public Relations and General Affairs Department of the AEM, in an attempt of self-defence, also resorted to the following arguments: ‘The AEM has always and in any case, when it was determined that a violation of standards has occurred, initiated a procedure. This was also the case in January 2019 when an initiative was sent to the Regulatory Body for Electronic Media in Serbia to initiate the procedure and determine the responsibility of the broadcasters of TV programmes under their jurisdiction’.
All of these AEM’s allegations are void of any factual argumentation.
To start with the latter: the AEM has send the initiative to the Regulatory Body for Electronic Media of Serbia only after it was publicly requested by the Minister of Culture, Aleksandar Bogdanovic, in January 2019. The Minister, to remind, has called on AEM to take action under its responsibility for negative campaigns against Montenegro and the President of Montenegro carried out by Pink and Happy televisions through cable operators. The minister indeed did not make a public statement in early 2020, but the cause-and-effect relationship of the events beginning in 2019 is eloquent enough to conclude that this year’s AEM measures against Pink and Happy have the same or similar cause and effect.
Although claiming to be independent in their operations, the AEM did not explain why they did not in previous years, when the line minister did not express himself, acted as prescribed and as they themselves promised in their decisions on objections and complaints against Pink M television that were submitted by people who were regarded as strong critics of the Montenegrin authorities, which this television has vilified in continuity. For example, in 2016, the AEM issued nine warnings to Pink M television for ‘violations of programme principles and standards’. The explanation of each of these rulings forebode that in the event of a repeated violation more severe sanctions will ensue – temporarily revoking the broadcasting license. However, the AEM never imposed such sanctions.
Such AEM seeks now the public to trust in it by saying that ‘the protection of minors (is) one of the most important activities of AEM’, and it was precisely the non-governmental sector that had to remind them, firstly to the obligation to amend the rulebook and subsequently to the obligation to its application i.e. to ‘force cable operators to restrict the broadcasting of content that may harm minors’. It is undisputable that the Media Centre was the one that reminded the Council and the Director of the AEM in early 2019 that Article 82 of the Law on Electronic Media had not been applied for years, and when they did so, it reminded them that they should ensure compliance with the rulebook.
In its analysis, the CCE did not question the regularity of the AEM directors’ selection procedure, but only stated that this person is a close relative of the long-standing high official of ruling Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS). There is nothing tabloid about making this fact known to the public, because by hiding such information one wants to create the impression that AEM is independent.
We also take this opportunity to remind that part of the assessments, to which the AEM now reacts, was published a year ago in the CCE’s analysis of “Controlled chaos in the regulation of electronic media – the work of the Agency for Electronic Media“, alongside with many other controversies of the work of AEM. We have submitted this analysis to the AEM and invited them to participate at the conference where we discussed the state of affair in media field in Montenegro with representatives of institutions, media and civil society. At the time, the AEM did not respond or questioned any of our assessments, and they avoided coming to a gathering that was an opportunity to present their views and answer questions from the interested stakeholders. Even this latest response comes one week after the publication of this year CCE’s analysis, the excerpts of which were publicised by almost all Montenegrin media and, unfortunately, it only confirms everything we have stated in these two analyses.
Daliborka Uljarevic, Executive Director
Note: We point out that the reaction of the AEM was integrally publicised by the following media that did not publish the CCE’s analysis to which the AEM reacts – Antena M and the portal Aktuelno.me. Also, the RTCG portal published parts of the CCE analysis but without a single word about AEM, while publishing the integral response of AEM.