The first round of the presidential elections in Montenegro was the key topic of the media in the previous month, especially on internet portals. During this election cycle, there were violations of election silence, and special attention of the public was generated by the TV appearances and debates of the presidential candidates with accompanying controversies. The possibility of free advertising on RTCG was best used by those candidates who started campaigning at the earliest, and the billboard campaign was used to a significant extent as a way of promoting the election offer. Presidential candidates have intensely used social networks as a growing tool of powerful influence and they did not regret the means for that. Unfortunately, hate speech against members of other nationalities, insults and harsh accusations are part of the usual repertoire of comments on social networks. This time as well, the topics of gender equality, women’s rights, political and economic empowerment of women remained on the sidelines. The presidential elections also attracted a lot of attention from the media from the region, especially those from neighbouring Serbia. These are some of the key findings of the “Spinofact 6” – media monitoring for the first round of presidential elections in Montenegro, which was conducted from 27 February to 19 March by the Centre for Civic Education (CCE) with the support of the Arhimed company.
Which media reported the most on the elections?
In the observed period, the monitoring team recorded 5564 publications in the media related to the presidential elections, of which 3966 (71%) were in online media, which is expected due to the number of online media in the media market of Montenegro and the fact that they offer unlimited space for publicising information. This is followed by television with 1244 publications (22%) and print media with 354 publications (7%).
Out of all online media, as well as media in total, Portal Vijesti followed the presidential elections the most in the observed period with 485 posts, followed by the Portal Gradska Televizija with 452 posts and the CdM Portal with 425 posts. When it comes to television stations, the presidential election was followed the most by Gradska television with 241 announcements, then by Vijesti television with 200 announcements, and in third place was TV7 with 155 announcements. In the print media, Pobjeda had the most publications – 144, followed by Dan – 114 and Vijesti – 75 publications.
It should be noted that the print media Pobjeda and Dan regularly followed pre-election conventions, while Vijesti hardly reported on these conventions. Televisions and online media reported on the elections to a significant extent, both on their own initiative and by transmitting the comments of participants’ campaigns and other subjects (individuals, analysts, NGO sector, and representatives of international organizations).
Violation of electoral silence
Part of the media did not respect the rule of election silence. The Portal Vijesti broke the election silence by publishing a column called “Duet”, which was later removed, and which was reported by Borba that also broke this rule with a pretentious title. IN4S, which is not registered in line with the media legislation, violated election silence with texts (ВИДЕО) Расуло у СДП-у: Драгиња спрема „освету“ Ранку and Амбасадор Маслеников: Демократска партија социјалиста потпуно разорила руско-црногорске односе!. Gradski Portal broke the election silence by publishing, on the election day, the column „Jesmo li naučili?“, which was also re-publicised by the Analitika portal. During the election silence, the online space was filled with fake news by the Serbian portal Naša borba, whose headquarter, according to the imprint, is in Novi Sad. False information from this portal quickly spread through social networks, and most often went in the direction of harming the candidates Milo Đukanović and Draginja Vuksanović Stanković.
Who was the most represented on TV appearances?
The monitoring team of the CCE and Arhimed measured the time that the candidates spent on guest appearances and debates on prime evening time on commercial television, as well as on the public service RTCG (TVCG 1, without the Parliamentary channel). In that part, the presidential candidate Andrija Mandić had the most time to express his views and answer the questions of moderators and presenters, cumulatively 24,841 seconds on all televisions and in all shows. Milo Đukanović follows with 19,600 seconds. Aleksa Bečić had the closest time with 13,620 seconds and Jakov Milatović with 12,368 seconds. At the same time, the candidate Draginja Vuksanović Stanković had 5,868 seconds, and Goran Danilović 5,325 seconds, while the candidate Jovan Radulović was not present in the media in the context of the presidential elections on these television shows.
The dominant topics in TV guest appearances and debates were “general political issues” related to current political affairs, presentation of programmes, etc. – 41,024 seconds (app. 50%). Within the generated narrative of the presidential candidates, the second thematic unit was “identity issues” with 17,600 seconds (21%), followed by “crime and corruption” with 12% (9,869 seconds), economic issues with 8% (6,585 seconds), and social topics with 4% (3,086 seconds) of the total narrative of all presidential candidates. The issue of gender equality and the position of women was the subject of discussion for only 487 seconds by all the candidates on all the television shows covered by the monitoring, and above all, the only female candidate in these elections – Draginja Vuksanović Stanković, talked about that topic.
All the presidential candidates were dominated by a narrative related to “general political issues”, except for candidate Vuksanović Stanković, who prioritized identity issues in her TV appearances. A significant part of the presentation on identity themes is also noted by the candidates Đukanović and Mandić, whereas the theme of “corruption and organized crime” is also represented by the candidates Mandić, and “economy” by the candidates Milatović and Đukanović.
It is important to point out that all the presidential candidates participated in the first debate on the public broadcasting service RTCG, except Jovan Radulović, who claimed that he did not receive an invitation to the debate, contrary to the statements of the RTCG editorial board. The first debate was also marked by technical problems with time measurement, which caused numerous reactions. The second planned debate at RTCG for 16 March was not even held because Milo Đukanović and Andrija Mandić did not confirm their participation. In that planned time, they were participants in a mutual TV duel, organized and broadcasted jointly by Prva TV and E Television.
Who made the most of free advertising on RTCG?
RTCG has an obligation, according to Article 53a of the Law on the Election of Councilors and Members of Parliament, to provide the submitters of confirmed election lists with equal and daily free space for broadcasting, and this was respected, through three-day time slots (11 a.m, 3 p.m. and 5 p.m.) for broadcasting political-propaganda TV – clips on another program. In the observed period, citizens on TVCG2 had the opportunity to see a total of 228 political-propaganda TV clips, lasting 8,580 seconds, or slightly more than 2 and a half hours.
The right to free broadcasting was best used by the candidate Andrija Mandić, who had 76 political propaganda clips with a total duration of 2290 seconds, and began broadcasting on 22 February, when the other candidates’ presidential candidacy had not yet been confirmed. Candidate Aleksa Bečić started using this right on 1 March and is in second place in terms of the number of broadcast advertising seconds on TVCG2 (1503 seconds), followed by candidate Jakov Milatović (1422 seconds). Candidate Đukanović only started using the possibility of free advertising on 7 March, and is a penultimate place in the number of seconds broadcast on TVCG 2 (921 seconds). Candidate Jovan Radulović did not use his right to free broadcasting on the public service.
In this part, the subject of monitoring was also advertising on the public service RTCG – TVCG1 and TVCG2 (the Parliamentary channel was not subject to monitoring, although reports from the final gatherings were most often broadcasted through it, after the central news show Dnevnik 2).
Billboards in the presidential campaign
For this monitoring, CCE and Arhimed conducted a quantitative and qualitative review of the billboard visualization of all presidential candidates throughout the territory of Montenegro, with the note that only candidate Jovan Radulović did not advertise in this way. Most of the candidates had one visual solution for their billboards, except the candidate of Democrats, Aleksa Bečić, whose billboards had two dominant visual solutions. Candidate Milo Đukanović had the most recorded billboards – 134, followed by Aleksa Bečić with 128, Andrija Mandić with 117, Jakov Milatović with 64, Goran Danilović with 11, and Draginja Vuksanović Stanković with 5 billboards.
The billboards for the presidential elections, as expected, had a dominant figure of the presidential candidate, and since there was only one woman, the dominance of male figures on the billboards is expected. Common to all are simple billboards with a photo, the main slogan and later the number of candidates on the ballot. Most of the candidates are presented with messages/slogans that send information about the importance of the person/personality that is presented, while the slogans of Europe now and the Democratic Front are in the plural. No stereotypical, sexist or pejorative depictions of women were recorded on the billboard.
Campaign on social media
Monitoring of social networks included Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The official accounts (pages) of the presidential candidates and the parties that nominated them were monitored, as well as the official pages of other parties and political entities that supported the same candidates, from the moment they publicly expressed their support. In total, the CCE team analyzed 3104 posts of all presidential candidates, of which the most analyzed posts were on Facebook (1480), then on Instagram (949) and Twitter (675).
The most active person on the social network Facebook, was candidate Andrija Mandić, who generated 348 posts through his page, the pages of the Democratic Front and the party of the New Serbian Democracy. Candidate Jakov Milatović follows with a cumulative 208 posts on his page and the page of the Europe Now movement. Candidate Draginja Vuksanović Stanković generated 199 posts on her social page and the SDP page.
And on Instagram, candidate Andrija Mandić was dominantly the most active, generating 293 posts on his account, as well as on the accounts of DF and New Serbian Democracy. The second candidate with the most posts via his profile and Europe Now profile was Jakov Milatović with 164 posts, while candidate Aleksa Bečić is in third place with 122 posts via his page and the page of Democratic Montenegro.
Candidate Vuksanović Stanković and SDP were the most active on Twitter with 207 posts in the observed period, followed by candidate Milo Đukanović and DPS with 153 posts, and Andrija Mandić in third place with 136 posts on the Democratic Front and New Serbian Democracy accounts.
Posts on social networks generated a huge number of comments that were mostly either expressions of support or contained hate speech – personal insults, accusations of crime and corruption, or comments based on nationality. The largest number of announcements addressed “general political issues” related to the current political situation, presentation of programmes, etc. Electoral silence was not respected at all on social networks and violations by all candidates were recorded.
Gender equality in the campaign on social networks
Issues of gender equality, women’s rights, political and economic empowerment of women, and violence against women, etc. appeared only on the margins of the generated narrative on social networks, and (as expected) the female candidate for president of Montenegro, Draginja Vuksanović Stanković, and SDP communicated the most percentage of them. That number of posts was cumulatively 100 on all three social networks – 57 on Facebook, 12 on Twitter and 31 on Instagram.
The already low number of announcements would have been even lower if the election campaign had not included 8 March – Women’s Day, which the parties used to congratulate the holiday and make a declarative commitment to achieving gender equality in society. As many as 28 of the 57 posts on Facebook were published on 7 and 8 March, while at the same time, 5 of the 12 posts on Twitter were recorded, and 16 of the total 31 posts on Instagram. The fact that the parties communicated half of all announcements dedicated to this topic in those two days does not indicate their essential commitment to these issues.
So, in only 100 of the 3104 analyzed posts on social networks, general issues of gender equality and political participation, and sporadically the topic of violence against women, are noted. Examples of hate speech and comments with offensive content below the posts are dominant on Twitter, slightly less common on Facebook, and least common on Instagram. On each of the three social networks, the target of such comments is the only female candidate – Draginja Vuksanović Stanković.
Under each of the posts on the assessed social networks, comments were monitored and examples of hate speech were recorded using a random sample method, with an emphasis on hate speech and negative, insulting and misogynistic comments addressed to women (the only female candidate in the presidential elections).
Who spent the most money on social media advertising?
CCE also made an analysis of the parties’ financial allocations, from 17 February to 18 March 18 2023, for paid advertising on social networks Facebook and Instagram, using the Meta Ad Library Report tool, and the data indicate that €43,105 was allocated, to the 10 most active pages, for 570 advertisements.
The following pages allocated the most funds: “Aleksa Bečić – Democrats – Democratic Montenegro” – €10,189 for 90 adds; “Milo Đukanović” – €8,786 for 150 adds; “Andrija Mandić” – €8,591 for 104 adds; “Jakov Milatović” – €5,326 for 42 adds; “Draginja Vuksanović” – €4,231 for 88 adds; “United Montenegro – Official site” – €1,983 for 47 adds; “Milojko Spajić” – €1,848 for 1 adds; “Europe Now Movement” – €1,181 for 20 adds; “Civil Movement URA” – €642 for 24 adds; and the page “Nik Gjeloshaj” – €328 for 4 adds.
A lot of neighbourhood interest in the presidential election
The first round of the presidential elections generated great interest from the media from the region, and especially the media from Serbia, which reported on the elections campaign, through special texts and broadcasts, and during election night followed the results in detail and reported live, especially portals. The State Election Commission (SEC) has issued 123 accreditations for journalistic teams from Montenegro and the region to be able to cover the first round of the presidential elections.
“Spinofact 6” included the monitoring of nine TV stations (RTCG1, RTCG2, TV Vijesti, TV E, Adria TV, Gradska TV, TV 7, TV Prva and TV A plus), 11 portals (CdM, Analitika, Portal Vijesti, RTCG. me, Antena M, Portal Pobjeda, Dan online, IN4S, Borba.me, Gradski.me and Standard.me), and three newspapers (Vijesti, Dan, Pobjeda). The monitoring of social networks included Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, namely the official accounts (pages) of the presidential candidates and the accounts of the parties that nominated them, as well as the official pages of other parties and political entities that supported the same candidates, from the moment in which they publicly expressed their support. This is the sixth time that the CCE conducts media monitoring during election campaigns, and previously it did so during the campaign for local elections in 2017, for presidential elections in 2018, local elections in 2018, parliamentary elections in 2020, and local elections in 2022.
CCE and Arhimed will monitor the campaign in the media and on social networks during the second round of the presidential elections.
NOTE: A subsequent check revealed that within processing the number of billboards one city was not included, hence the wording related to this part is new – The candidate Milo Đukanović had the most recorded billboards – 193 (148 billboards and 45 city lights), followed by Aleksa Bečić 184 (167 billboards and 17 city lights), then Andrija Mandić with 172 (136 billboards and 36 city lights), Jakov Milatović with 106 (79 billboards and 27 city lights), Goran Danilović with 13 billboards and Draginja Vuksanović with 10 billboards and 3 city lights (13 in total).
Damir Nikočević, Development Coordinator
Milica Zindović, Programme Associate