EC report on Montenegro: Precarious economic situation leads to self-censorship

Source/Author: TUMM

PODGORICA 23.05.2018. – The precarious economic situation of journalists, particularly due to job insecurity and low salaries, is putting them at risk of editorial interference and possible self-censorship, according to a recent report by the European Commission (EC) on Montenegro.

EC stated that ,,there is no structured dialogue between the government and the media community on the working conditions of journalists”. Additionally ,, the fact that many media outlets are not financially sustainable has a negative impact on the quality of reporting and professionalism”. The report stated that ,,journalists are jointly represented in Montenegro’s media trade union”. Trade Union of Media of Montenegro represents the interests of almost half of total number of media employees and gathers about 600 members.

There is, also, ,,two associations aimed at fostering and promoting professional journalism across the polarised media scene”, but, according to the EC report, ,,they still need to reach their full potential”.

Talking about the position of journalists in Montenegro, an important part is their security which was aggravated. EC in report underlined that ,, there have been no notable developments on investigations into old cases of violence against journalists”.

,,Seven cases of attacks on journalists took place in 2017. Three of these cases resulted in misdemeanour proceedings, while in one case the authorities found no elements of criminal or minor offences. Criminal investigations into old cases, including the 2004 murder of an editor-in-chief (Duško Jovanović), continue to be ineffective and the authorities have so far failed to step up and prioritise efforts to solve these cases. In October 2017, a first-instance court awarded compensation to a journalist (Tufik Softić) for lack of effective investigation into an attempt on his life in 2007. In the same case, in November 2017 the Constitutional Court awarded the journalist additional compensation”, the report said.

,,The ad hoc Commission monitoring violence against media, which was re-established in September 2016, has so far produced three reports focusing on more recent cases, identifying a number of shortcomings and delays in investigations. The commission’s recommendations, which were endorsed by the government, need to be fully implemented”, EC asked. They added that ,, efforts should be stepped up to prosecute these cases effectively, also so as to avoid the application of the statute of limitations”. In the past, Trade Union of Media of Montenegro has repeatedly pointed to this problem.

EC clearly expects that “ authorities demonstrate zero tolerance for threats or attacks against the media, and should refrain from making statements that may create an environment not conducive to freedom of expression”.

According to the general view of Brussels “Montenegro has some level of preparation on freedom of expression but no progress was made in the reporting period”. Because of that, according to recommendations of EC, Montenegro should in particular: clearly step up and prioritise efforts to investigate cases of attacks against journalists; ensure the financial and editorial independence of Radio-Television of Montenegro (RTCG) and Agency for Electronic Media (AEM), as well as of their governing bodies and of all other media outlets; and strengthen the capacity of self-regulatory bodies.