Authorities should commit themselves to create environment for media freedom

On the occasion of 3 May – World Press Freedom Day, the Centre for Civic Education (CCE) wants to congratulate all media, media associations and journalists on this day. The role of professional and responsible media in covering crisis situations, such as the COVID-19 epidemic, is of particular importance. Therefore, this date is an additional opportunity to reiterate numerous challenges faced by media and journalists, as well as recommendations for improvement of the current poor state of affairs.

The CCE recently published annual report on the state of affairs within the media field – Media in Montenegro – between the stranglehold of power and the struggle for profession. Unfortunately, the key problems have already become chronic, and these refer to hard censorship i.e. cases of attacks on journalists and their impunity, soft censorship that jeopardizes the financial sustainability of the media, self-censorship, lack of implementation within the legislative framework and practice of self-regulation and regulation, as well as party take-over of the public broadcaster RTCG. These problems have been confirmed by the latest report of the Reporters Without Borders, according to which Montenegro continues its decline, and they have been also elaborated many times in the Montenegrin public.

In order to mark some future World Press Freedom Day with more satisfaction, it is necessary that Montenegrin authorities stop trying to bring all the media under their umbrella and enable legislative and practical framework for the development of media freedom. This includes the unambiguous political will to implement the following recommendations:

    • Intensification of investigations into attacks on journalists and media property;
    • Adoption of the Draft Media Law with the following interventions:
    1. strengthen the position and responsibilities of the Editor-in-Chief and increase protection of his/her rights,
    2. functional respect for plurality and autonomy of the work of self-regulatory bodies,
    3. narrow down the priority areas of the Fund for the promotion of pluralism and diversity in media  with widening of their reach,
    4. strengthen the responsibility of media founders and Editor-in-Chief for the content of reporting, while protecting individual journalists,
    5. shorten deadlines for media intervention to remove and sanction  inappropriate users’ comments, and
    6. protection of journalists’ sources in accordance with international standards.
      • Adoption of the Draft Law on RTCG with amendments that would guarantee financial and editorial independence of RTCG and the managerial bodies of RTCG;
      • Adoption of the new Law on Audiovisual Media Services, as proposed by NGO Media Center;
      • New calls for appointment of members to the RTCG and AVM councils and conduct of such procedures under new rules, which include interventions in the area of strengthening of independence and plurality of members of those councils;
      • Create an environment that will in practical ways allow media regulators and public service broadcasters to operate without the burden of inappropriate political interference and pressures;
      • Support for the self-regulation through the establishment of an annual financial award for the best performing self-regulatory body;
      • Support to the initiatives to introduce media literacy into formal education system and create a plan for their implementation with the involvement of educational institutions, media organizations, and NGOs dealing with the media.

The CCE believes that pointing out to the problems in the media sphere is no longer enough, but that it is necessary to insist on their solution. There are clear guidelines for this and responsibility for their implementation lies with the Government and the ruling coalition.

The CCE will insist on substantive changes of the legislative framework and proper implementation of these laws in line with these changes that ensure media sustainability, development of professional journalism and creating environment in which space for political and other pressures will be narrowed.

Damir NIKOCEVIC, Development Coordinator at the CCE