The poor position of journalists must not be perceived as normal

On the occasion of 23 January – the Day of Journalists of Montenegro, the Centre for Civic Education (CCE) congratulates all journalists in Montenegro their day with the hope that, despite the difficult socio-political environment, their position will improve. Journalists in Montenegro welcome their day with a series of problems, starting with physical and verbal attacks, of which there were 19 in 2022, but also the fact that none of the biggest cases of attacks on journalists have been fully investigated so far. However, last year resulted in some progress, in the part of the increase of daily wages for work on Sundays for employees in the media, which will come into force in June 2023, according to the General Collective Agreement.

In a society characterized by strong political and media polarization and growing hate speech, journalists should represent the messengers of a free and democratic society based on civic values. Professional reporting must be the starting point and destination of every journalist, and all in the public interest and for the benefit of all citizens. This is precisely what differentiates journalists from propagandists, and professionals from media agitators.

In last year, journalists faced both security and financial challenges. Uncovering attacks on journalists is still limited, while the competent institutions, as well as the Commission for Investigations and Attacks on Journalists and Media Property, have not made effective efforts to expose the perpetrators and instigators of some of the most serious attacks on journalists. In 2022, the CCE recorded 19 attacks on journalists and media houses. Of these, there were 8 attacks on journalists, 7 threats to journalists via the Internet, 3 attacks on media houses, and 1 threat addressed to a media house. If you add to all that the rather poor financial conditions in which the media operate, then the Day of Journalists of Montenegro is more of a reason for warning to the competent institutions. Yet, it is to be expected that, like every year, that day will serve to political parties, especially the ruling ones, to rehearse their rhetorical commitment, instead of effective action.

Relevant researches and analysis continuously point to the problems of the media community, to which Montenegrin institutions remain chronically silent. In addition to attacks on journalists and the media, there is also insufficiently transparent financing of the media from public funds, weak self-regulation and limited regulation, hate speech on social media, RTCG that is not yet a genuine public service, and media literacy, which on the margins of the educational process framing the media landscape of Montenegro. Therefore, it is not surprising that many quality journalistic professionals leave the media searching for a safer environment and more perspective earnings.

For years, the CCE has been pointing out the problems that journalists face, and through numerous initiatives tries to contribute to improving the status of journalists, such as recent comments on the draft set of media laws (the Law on Media and the Law on Public Media Service of Montenegro), all with the aim to develop journalism based on ethical norms, the highest professional standards and positioning the public interest as a guide in reporting.

Damir Nikočević, Development Coordinator