PODGORICA, 21.10.2021 – The COVID-19 pandemic has further aggravated the already difficult economic situation of journalists and media workers, including job insecurity and low salaries. Journalists are generally economically highly dependent on media owners, regardless of whether private individuals, national or local authorities, which ultimately results in biased reporting and creates risks of self-censorship, political pressure and owners’ interference in editorial policy. 

This is stated in the European Commission’s Progress Report on Montenegro for 2021.

“Montenegro has achieved some level of preparation in the area of freedom of expression. Overall, it made limited progress during the reporting period and only partially addressed last year’s recommendations. There were some new developments on investigation into the 2018 shooting of an investigative journalist, but full and effective judicial follow-up both to this case and to other important old cases, remains to be ensured”, it is stated in the document.

In April 2021, as stated, the government established a new ad hoc commission for monitoring violence against the media, but it has not yet fully or effectively addressed the significant recommendations made by the previous commission.

“A revision of the legal framework is ongoing, to address the additional issues identified in the 2020 law on media and the law on public broadcaster RTCG, to complete it with a new law on audio-visual media, and ensure their full alignment with the EU acquis and European standards. More efforts are required to limit the effects of disinformation and on-line harassment and hate speech, while ensuring that such measures do not limit disproportionately freedom of expression”.

EC states that the Parliament appointed the new RTCG Council in June 2021 without broad cross-party support.

“Following this change and the subsequent changes of RTCG management, the public broadcaster started to feature politically more diverse content. The media scene remains overall highly polarised, often marked by politically biased and unbalanced reporting, including extensive involvement of foreign media from the region, which was particularly notable during election periods. Self-regulatory mechanisms remain weak”, it is stated in the document.

As stated, also there is an uneven application of the journalistic code of ethics across the media community, self-regulatory mechanisms are weak and the frequency of journalists and media filing defamation lawsuits against other journalists is high.