The Protector on media issues: The goal is a safe work environment and satisfactory wages

PODGORICA 06.06.2018. – Authorities must take all necessary measures and actions in order to further improve the freedom of the media, The Protector of Human Rights and Freedoms of Montenegro Sucko Bakovic stated in its Report for 2017.  

He also announced that he will continue to support the efforts of trade unions, journalist associations and the media,  in order to achieve the desired standards and working conditions – safe environment for work, full autonomy and independence, settled labor and legal status, satisfactory and motivating wages and effective investigation of attacks on journalists and /or media assets.

“Consistent respect of the rules of the profession and the rights of those reported to is necessary for journalists to preserve the reputation of the profession, their own and the credibility of the media in which they work. The Protector invites journalists to resist journalists’ tabloidisation, sensationalism and commercial interests by professional work.  Journalists must continue to be allies in efforts to improve the overall situation in society for the benefit of all”, it is stated in the Ombudsman’s report.

Bakovic recalls that the Trade Union of Media of Montenegro (SMCG) in November 2017 published a report Indicators of the level of media freedom and security of journalists, which states that in the media according to statistics of MONSTAT there are 1,375 persons and that their salaries continue to be substantially less than the average salary at the state level (which, according to the MONSTAT, was 500 EUR in June 2017). The problem of delay in earnings it was pointed out, and that this is most often case to employees in local public broadcasters.

He also recalled the fact that the SMCG pointed out that “the economic position is also reflected by the fact that 31.3% of the respondents were forced to work on another, paid job, which is a growth of 13% compared to the previous year”.  The Human rights protector also notes other conclusions from the SMCG report, such as the necessity of amending the Media Act, in order to provide journalistic and editorial independence in relation to managers, owners of media and advertisers. Also he recalls the need to insists on specific proposals to improve the working and economic rights of media employees during the negotiation on the new Collective Agreement on Media.

The Ombudsman also referred to the work of the Commission for monitoring the conduct of the authorities in the investigation of cases of threats and violence against journalists, the killing of journalists and attacks on media assets, and the problem that the work reports of the Commission were not published, as well as the non-acceptance of the recommendations of that body.

For the needs of the Report, Bakovic requested information from the Police Directorate (UP) regarding the safety of journalists.

“We are informed that during 2017. The Police Directorate reported nine events in which journalists, media or their business and personal property appear as injured parties. Four such events were reported in 2016, and in 2015 there were 15. Of the nine reported cases – three were processed by submitting misdemeanor charges, for one case the competent prosecutor pleaded that there were no elements of the criminal offense or offenses for which prosecution is being conducted by official duty, and one is not qualified by the prosecutor”, the report states.

“During 2017, there were no cases of granting police protection to journalists, nor cases in which the police secured the premises of some media”, it was noted by UP.

The Protector also recalled the Declaration of the Joint Consultative Committee of Civil Society of the European Union and Montenegro (ZKO) adopted in December, in which the Montenegrin authorities are required to provide a legal framework in order to ensure the independence of journalists and editors from managers, owners of media and advertisers, to provide protection against unethical behavior and reduce censorship and self-censorship.

SMCG, Podgorica, 06/06/2018