The second round of presidential elections generated a huge number of media announcements, dominantly on portals, while the campaign silence was undermined and the question of the purposefulness of the existence of that rule was opened. Milo Đukanović used more space in prime-time TV shows and debates, as well as on social media Facebook and Twitter. Jakov Milatović was more active on Instagram, with a stronger engagement of the political parties that supported his candidacy. Candidates equally used free advertising on RTCG. Hate speech, insults and harsh accusations remain a constant in the comments on social media, while gender equality did not exist as an issue. There is even greater interest in the elections among media from the region, particularly from Serbia. These are some of the key findings of the “Spinofact 6” – media monitoring for the second round of presidential elections in Montenegro, which was conducted from 20 March to 2 April by the Centre for Civic Education (CCE) with the support of the Arhimed agency. CCE and Arhimed previously published the findings of media monitoring for the first round of presidential elections.
Huge number of media announcements – transparency or information overload?
During the second round, the monitoring team recorded 2974 media announcements containing information related to the presidential elections in Montenegro. Online media generated the most announcements – 2012 (68%), followed by television with 755 (25%) and print media with 207 announcements (7%). Although the statistical data are not comparable to the data from the first round, due to the difference in the length of the observed period (shorter campaign period) and the number of involved entities – candidates (smaller number of candidates), it is clear that the public was strongly exposed to information about these elections.
Out of all the online media, as well as media in total, Portal Gradski covered the most the presidential elections and had 256 announcements, followed by the Portal Analitika with 221 announcements, portals Vijesti and CdM with 203 announcements each. When it comes to TV stations, the presidential election was reported the most by Gradska television with 165 announcements, followed by Vijesti television with 100 announcements, and in third place was TV7 with 88 announcements. Among the print media, Pobjeda had the most announcements – 87, followed by Dan – 59 and Vijesti – 47 announcements.
Electoral silence institute was not respected
The election silence institute was obviously meaningless because most of the media violated it. Most of the media published the statement of the Police Administration about the searches in several cities, stating that marked election material, copies of identity cards, etc. were found, which provoked the DPS to react via announcement of Democratic Party of Socialists – DPS spokesman Miloš Nikolić on 1 April and the press conference of vice-president of DPS Jevto Eraković on 2 April, which was reported by almost all media.
The election silence was broken by the portals IN4S and Aktuelno, whose texts, especially the headlines, were extremely fan-like, such as the following: (ВИДЕО) То нам је Ђед указао: Сваки глас је важан, сви на изборе!, VIDEO: Kod Milatovića samo na silu slušaju himnu, ali dobro je barem su ustali, BRUKA: Pogubljeni Milatović došao da glasa pa se vratio jer je zaboravio ličnu kartu!. Also, with a series of texts about the candidate Đukanović and his family, newspapers and portal Vijesti broke the election silence – Đukanovića ne zanima raspuštena Skupština, I posao na auto-putu i osam miliona eura povoljnih kredita, Krgović: Prva banka i Đukanović kršili zakon, prvi milion stečen nelegalno, and text Kako je Đukanović postao milioner: Brat, povezana firma i sporne transakcije was still on the front page of the portal for a while after midnight on 1 April.
As in the first round, the portals Nacionalist and Naša borba contaminated the media space with fake news directed against candidate Đukanović, while supporting candidate Milatović. Activists and media who have a different opinion compared to these two propaganda newspapers from Serbia also contributed to the orchestrated campaign.
Milo Đukanović more represented in prime-time TV shows, economic issues ahead of identity issues
In the second round as well, the monitoring team of CCE and Arhimed measured the time the candidates spent on guest appearances and debates in prime time on commercial television, as well as on National Public Service RTCG. In that part, the presidential candidate Milo Đukanović used significantly more space – 16670 seconds, while candidate Jakov Milatović used 12909 seconds to present his ideas and views.
Both candidates used the right to appear in specialized shows on the TVCG 1 in separate shows (interviews) and final debate. DPS presidential candidate Milo Đukanović did not appear on PRVA TV, TV Adria, TV Vijesti. On the other hand, Milatović did not use the opportunity to be a guest on TV E, unlike Đukanović, who participated in a special show of this television answering questions of businessmen.
Dominant issues in TV appearances and debates were ‘general political issues’ related to the current political situation, presentation of programmes, etc. – 18293 seconds (app. 62%). In contrast to the first round, when ‘identity issues’ were singled out as the second-placed thematic unit, this time in terms of the number of registered seconds, the ‘economy’ issue is in second place, with 7108 seconds (24%). In the total narrative that the candidates generated in the TV shows in the campaign for the second round, the percentage share of this topic increased by 14%. On the other hand, the ‘identity issues’ decreased by 15% and in the second round, 1806 seconds (6%) were devoted to identity issues and placing it in fourth place. This is, partially, a consequence of the absence of narratives of certain candidates from the first round who devoted significant media space to this issue (Draginja Vuksanović Stanković and Andrija Mandić). In third place is the ‘crime and corruption’ issue with 1854 seconds (also 6%). The issue of gender equality and women’s rights has not been given a single second of attention.
When it comes to the time that the candidates individually had at their disposal to express their views within the observed TV shows, both devoted the most time to the thematic unit ‘general political issues’. The percentage share of this issue among both candidates increased compared to the first round. The ‘economy’ issue is in second place with both candidates, and it increased significantly in the narrative of candidate Milo Đukanović, while it remained at the same level in the narrative of Jakov Milatović. The third most represented issue for Đukanović was ‘identity issues’, and for Milatović ‘corruption and organized crime’. The share of the thematic unit ‘identity issues’ was significantly reduced in the narrative of both candidates during the second round.
Equal use of free advertising on RTCG
RTCG, as a public broadcaster, in accordance with Article 53a of the Law on the Election of Councilors and Members of Parliament, has the obligation to ensure equal and free of charge broadcasting of announcements of all candidate lists submitting entities. In the period from 20 March until 31 March 2023 when the election silence began, 151 political-propaganda TV – clips were broadcast on TVCG2 and the Parliamentary channel, with a total duration of 9850 seconds (a little more than 2 and a half hours).
The public broadcasting service, in accordance with the Law, provided the candidate lists submitting entities with equal and free of charge space for broadcasting political-propaganda TV clips on the second programme on a daily basis in three time slots – 11:00, 15:00 and 17:00, and on the Parliamentary programme in the block at 10:00, as well as in the blocks before and after the central news when political-propaganda video clips or audio-visual reports from promotional rallies of presidential candidates were broadcast for up to 3 minutes.
Broadcasting of political-propaganda video clips of presidential candidate Jakov Milatović during the second round began on 22 March on TVCG2, while broadcasting of candidate Milo Đukanović’s video clips began on 23 March, whereby Đukanović’s video clips lasted slightly longer than Milatović’s. Namely, the average duration of candidate Đukanović’s TV clips is 30 seconds, while the average duration of candidate Milatović’s TV clips is 25 seconds, which makes the total duration of candidate Đukanović’s advertising messages somewhat longer. On the Parliamentary channel, the broadcast of political-propaganda video clips and reports from promotional rallies began on 22 March, and those materials were of different duration, and therefore the total duration is different.
Due to the earlier start, candidate Milatović had slightly more broadcasts of video clips compared to candidate Đukanović on TVCG 2 and the Parliamentary channel – 30 versus 29 on TVCG 2 and 48 versus 44 on the Parliamentary channel. When it comes to the duration expressed in seconds of free advertising, candidate Đukanović has 796 seconds on TVCG2, and candidate Milatović 766. Milatović had a slight advantage in the number of seconds used on the Parliamentary channel compared to Đukanović (4169 seconds vs 4119 seconds).
Billboards in the presidential campaign
Billboards were not part of the monitoring of CCE and Arhimed in the campaign for the second round of the presidential elections, having in mind that the candidates who entered the second round only extended the lease of the billboard and city light positions that they had already provided in the first round of the presidential elections. Key findings from the first round indicate that candidate Milo Đukanović had the most recorded billboards. The candidates who did not enter the second round of the presidential elections – Andrija Mandić and Aleksa Bečić communicated through their previously leased billboard positions new visual solutions that invite citizens to vote for the candidate Milatović in the second round of the presidential elections.
Facebook and Twitter were more used by Đukanović, Instagram by Milatović
Monitoring of social media included Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The official accounts (pages) of 2 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 analysed 858 posts by both presidential candidates and those who supported them, of which the most analysed posts were on Facebook (350), followed by Instagram (303) and Twitter (205).
In the overall score on Facebook, of the two presidential candidates, Milo Đukanović was more active, generating 114 posts through his page and the DPS page. With a total of 13 posts from pages that supported him (SDP, SD, BS and LP), this candidate had 127 posts, with the note that SD had the most support posts (8). Candidate Jakov Milatović now had 97 posts on his personal page and on the page of the movement Europe now, but with the posts of the pages that supported him (126 posts), in the cumulative total he generated 223 posts, or almost double the number of posts of the parties gathered around Đukanović, with the biggest support provided by Prava Crna Gora (35), SNP (18) and DF (18).
On the social media Twitter, candidate Milo Đukanović was much more active in publishing posts, who had 131 posts via the official DPS account, while SD, BS and SDP also supported him in this way, with a total of 11 posts, which together makes 142 posts. Conversely, the candidate Jakov Milatović, through his personal account, as well as the account of the movement Europe now, generated 44 posts. URA, NSD and Democrat pages were also active in that support, through 19 posts, which makes 63 posts of the parties gathered around Milatović. with the most support from NSD (10).
Candidate Jakov Milatović was much more active on Instagram, with 102 posts on his personal account and on the account of the movement Europe now, which with 96 posts from the parties that supported him (SNP, Prava CG, URA, DF, NSD, Democrats, UCG and DNP), totaled 198 posts. In supporting posts, Prava Crne Gore (34) was leading. In contrast to Milatović, the candidate Milo Đukanović, through his official account, as well as the account of DPS, recorded 94 posts, which in total, together with 11 posts from SD (10) and SDP (1), amounts to 105 posts.
As in the first and second rounds of presidential elections, posts on social networks generated a huge number of comments, both expressions of support or criticism and hate speech, personal insults, accusations of crime and corruption, ’stealing’, ‘betrayal of the state’, etc.
The largest number of posts concerned ‘general political issues’, presentation of programmes, etc. and sporadically security issues, identity and religious issues, economy and European integration. Electoral silence was not applied on social media in the second round either, and a violation by both candidates was noted.
Gender equality issue did not exist on social media
Although in the first round of presidential elections, the 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 media, the second round is characterized by the complete absence of this content, which indicates that the parties and candidates do not recognize this topic as important at all. The only exception were two posts on Twitter on the general gender equality on the page of the DPS. From time to time, offensive and misogynistic comments were recorded on this social media.
263 ads on Facebook and Instagram in the last 7 days of the campaign
CCE also made an analysis of the parties’ financial allocations, with the note that the analysis refers to the last seven days of the campaign elections, when both candidates intensified their activities on social media. The analysis of paid advertising on Facebook and Instagram was done using the Meta Ad Library Report tool, and the data indicate that €2,484 was allocated for 263 advertisements for the three most active pages in this period.
As expected, the pages ’Jakov Milatović’ allocated the most funds – €1,154 for 15 ads; ’Milo Đukanović’ – €1,014 for 244 ads, as well as the page ’Movement Evropa Now’ – €316 for 4 sponsored advertisements.
In the second round, even greater interest in the presidential elections from the neighbourhood
Montenegrin presidential elections were the main topic of media reports in the region, and especially in Serbia, which, as in the first round, reported in detail on this issue through media reports and articles. TV Pink had a special TV programme and an election night that reported the results of the elections in Montenegro. The election night in Montenegro was covered on the front pages of all relevant portals in Serbia. The State Election Commission (SEC) issued 179 accreditations for journalist teams from Montenegro and the region so that they could cover the second round of presidential elections, which is more than the first round when 123 accreditations were issued.
“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.
Damir Nikočević, Development Coordinator
Milica Zindović, Programme Associate