Safety of the journalists had to be in the focus of the new government

On the occasion of 2 November – the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, the Centre for Civic Education (CCE) once again reminds of the inadmissible practice of silence of the competent institutions in resolving attacks on journalists. The new government, which new convocation is under construction, will have the opportunity to correct the omissions of the previous government and everything that their representatives were promising over the years to finally do on its own. One of the objectives of the new government must be to make an environment where all journalists can report freely, without consequences for their safety.

During 2019, four attacks on journalists were noted, and for three the indictments were filed. The last European Commission Country Report emphasizes that the improvement in resolving violence against journalists “is very limited“, and that the most important cases, such as assassination of Editor-in-chief of daily „Dan“ – Duško Jovanović  and attack on the journalist of daily „Vijesti“ – Olivera Lakić in 2018 are still unsolved. The work of the Commission for monitoring actions of competent authorities in investigations of cases of threats and violence against journalists, murders of journalists and attacts on media property remains without adequate effects due to limitation in getting complete information from the competent institutions. The government officials’ statements from the last year, which implies that there were serious internal omissions in investigations, with doubt that some cases could ever be resolved, were discouraging.

A society in which journalists suffer insults and threats, even physical consequences, because of their reporting – can’t be a society of a functional rule of law. In such an unfriendly environment, it is difficult to expect significant pieces of investigative journalism. Furthermore, the economic status of most journalists is extremely complex. The media should be able to ask free and open new topics that are not imposed by the mighty, and the lack of democratic political culture is reflected through the marking the targets and smear campaign against journalists who do that.

The role of the journalist is to question authorities and decisions of public interest. If private interest is before public one, and if self-censorship and censorship due to fear of own safety or social marginalization overpower the professional free reporting –  that limits total development of the society. However, freedom of expression can not be used for reckoning with the dissenters by any Montenegrin media. It is the responsibility of all media and journalists to report with respect to professional standards and the Code of Journalists in Montenegro. Only in these circumstances, it is possible to contribute to the process of democratization of Montenegro.

The CCE will continue to advocate media policies that aim to improve freedom of expression and media, regardless of who constitutes the government and who will be at the head of the competent institutions. Hence, the CCE will especially remind of the obligation of the Prosecutor’s Offices and the Police Directorate, as the most responsible institutions, to investigate crimes against freedom of expression, and to bring those who committed the crimes and those who ordered.

Damir Nikočević, Development Coordinator