PODGORICA, 29.03.2019. -Trade Union of Media of Montenegro (SMCG) strongly condemns every attempt to pressure and censor our colleagues in the Montenegrin media. In recent days, we witness the situation in the Public Service – Radio Television of Montenegro, whose journalist and editor of the TV show Okvir, Zoran Leković, openly talks about the attempt to impose interlocutors and the topic for show whose editor is he.
We would like to remind you that Article 61 of the RTCG Statute clearly stipulates that “program editors, journalists and other programmers in the RTCG, within the framework of the program conception and status code, are independent and autonomous in their work”. Because of openly speaking of pressures, against Lekovic a disciplinary procedure has been initiated, which can lead to the termination of his employment contract, although the same article of the RTCG stipulates that “it is forbidden to terminate employment for journalists and editors of RTCG, reduce contracted earnings, change status in editorial or otherwise aggravates their position due to expressed opinions that are in accordance with the program concept and the code of journalistic ethics or because of the refusal to publish information or opinions that violate the program concept and the journalistic code”. Almost identical formulation is found in Article 14 of the Law on National Public Broadcasters and SMCG expects to ensure the full implementation of this provision and that the state, through the institutions it represents, falls behind its own laws.
The Public Service Management is also reminded of the Rulebook on Program Principles and Professional Standards of the RTCG, which clearly states that “RTCG programs dealing with issues of public interest that cause different attitudes to the public must adequately and equally present different points of view and that whenever it is it is possible that journalists must find representatives of all involved parties and provide in the program all relevant attitudes”. Lekovic claims that he just insisted on this and that he is now purging.
Trade Union of Media of Montenegro has been registering censoring and self-censorship for years in its media freedom research in our country. Journalists both anonymously and with their first and last name testify about censorship and self-censorship, which, according to our data, are the most seen in private media. They testify both about the imposed topics and topics that are avoided, but also about imposed interlocutors.
We point out that Lekovic’s case is not lonely, although at the moment it is the most drastic, and we also inform the Public Service and private media owners that we will continue to speak publicly about the conditions in which the editorial offices are functioning because journalists should be able to work freely and without any pressure .
This is precisely why the SMCG insists on amending the Media Law to reduce the influence of owners, managers and editors on journalists. It is now an opportunity (while working on amendments to the Law on Media) to protect those who are working in private media in the same way as, even if formally, are protected journalists of the Public Service, and to guarantee that they will not suffer the consequences due to their opinion.
The influence of media owners, as pointed out by Council of Europe experts, must also be reduced and the opportunity that we now have as a society must not be missed. If that were to happen, and if it turns out that the state has mechanisms to protect us in the defense of the profession, we would have reason to hope that Lekovic is the last to suffer this type of pressure.
Main Board SMCG
SMCG, Podgorica, 29/03/2019