PODGORICA, May 16, 2022 – Judging by the recently published index of media freedom, the Montenegrin media community has a reason for optimism. Out of 180 countries ranked in the Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index, Montenegro ranked 63rd and moved to the top of the table for the first time.

Although this information is encouraging, Montenegro still owes the greatest gratitude for the change in the methodology of compiling the index.

“In light of this new methodology, care should be taken when comparing the 2022 rankings and scores with those from 2021” the Reporters Without Borders report said.

If we consider the global movements of media freedom, and that the report emphasizes the increase in polarization, which no one in Montenegro disputes anymore, it seems that there is not much reason to celebrate.

“The 20th World Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) reveals a two-fold increase in polarisation amplified by information chaos – that is, media polarisation fuelling divisions within countries, as well as polarisation between countries at the international level. The 2022 edition of the World Press Freedom Index, which assesses the state of journalism in 180 countries and territories, highlights the disastrous effects of news and information chaos – the effects of a globalised and unregulated online information space that encourages fake news and propaganda.”

When it comes to Montenegro, Reporters Without Borders states that the Constitution guarantees freedom of speech and expression, but that the freedom of the media is still endangered by political pressures, impunity for attacks on journalists, and economic pressures.

“Despite having undergone several changes in recent years, the legal framework preserves gaps in terms of free access to public information and protection of the confidentiality of journalistic sources, which leads to media’s independence being insufficiently protected against political and economic influences. The same is true for the RTCG which is not spared of political pressures despite the adoption of a new legal framework in 2020”, the report states.

They note that almost all attacks on journalists from last year have been solved, but that previous cases, such as the murder of “Dan” editor Dusko Jovanovic and the attempted murder of journalist Olivera Lakic, still do not have their epilogue.

“The government that came to power in 2020 promised to deliver progress in resolving past cases, but it has done little in this regard. The journalist Jovo Martinovic was condemned to a one year prison sentence despite a lack of evidence” the report states.

Freedom of expression and media freedom in Montenegro were recently addressed by Freedom House, as part of a global report on freedom, in which Montenegro was assessed as “partially free” with an index of 67 on a scale of up to 100.

“A variety of independent media operate in Montenegro, and media coverage continues to be partisan and combative on certain issues. Unlike the DPS government, the Krivokapić government has not sought to pressure reporters, nor does it exercise control of the public broadcaster, Radio and Television of Montenegro (RTCG). In June 2021, Parliament appointed a new RTCG Council, which in August appointed a new director. Following these changes, the RTCG began to feature more balanced editorial policy and more inclusive and diverse political content.”

However, the report also states that structural problems remain unresolved because journalists who cover corruption and organized crime continue to be the target of attacks.

A similar was stated by the U.S. Department of State in a report for last year, noting that progress has been registered in terms of less processing of persons due to comments on social networks.

“While independent media were active and generally expressed a wide variety of political and social views, media regulators faced increasing demands during the year that they curtail the rebroadcast of material from Serbia inciting hatred and intolerance.”