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Montenegro: Media freedom assessed by international experts

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Photo: pixabay.com

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.”

BH Journalists: Police must investigate and sanction threats against Srdjan Puhalo

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SARAJEVO/ BANJA LUKA, May 11, 2022 – The Steering Committee of the BH Journalists Association and the Free Media Help Line strongly condemn the death threats against Srdjan Puhalo, a blogger and activist from Banja Luka, and call on the police authorities of the Federation of BiH and Republika Srpska to urgently investigate this case and sanction the persons behind the threats.

Incitement, calling to violence and “beating”, offensive and discriminatory language, defamatory statements, seeking bans on Puhalo coming to Sarajevo, etc., are part of the orchestrated chase on Srdjan Puhalo, which followed after he published an author’s comment on Analiziraj.ba portal on topics of media headlines and statements by officials about the number of children killed in besieged Sarajevo. Puhalo called on NGO’s, state and international organizations, media outlets and individuals to investigate and publish the exact number of children – victims of the siege of Sarajevo, emphasizing that it is unacceptable to manipulate the number of victims for political purposes.

The Steering Committee of BH Journalists considers verbal violence against Srdjan Puhalo and his right to freedom of expression unacceptable, and stresses that death threats and threats to safety must not be a motive or response to disagreement with the author’s views and his attempt to open a public debate on painful topics. Srdjan Puhalo is known to the public as an author who brutally problematizes the issue of the war past, wanting to bring into public communication respect for every murdered person and condemnation of crimes, but also pointing the finger at all those who use war victims for political manipulation or nationalist narratives.

The Steering Committee of BH Journalists considers inadmissible the inciting actions of certain media outlets from Sarajevo that by directly transmitting hateful comments and other posts from social networks about colleague Puhalo do not contribute to the deconstruction of hate speech and violence against individuals as a crime, but create a platform for multiplying violence and creating an interethnic gap between the author and the families of the victims.

BH Journalists once again call on the media to return to the code of journalistic ethics and professional principles of truthful, comprehensive and objective reporting on the war, and the police and judicial authorities to investigate this case and sanction spreaders of hatred and all those who endanger the personal and professional rights of Srdjan Puhalo.

Steering Committee of BH Journalists Association

 

Albania: Investigations needed over intimidation of journalists reporting on prosecutor’s vetting

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slika: pixabay

IPI and other media freedom and journalists’ organisations today wrote to Besnik Dervishi, Commissioner for the Right to Access to Information and Personal Data Protection in Albania, to request thorough investigations into recent cases of suspicious data breaches involving journalists writing about a former prosecutor.

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09/05/2022

Sent electronically

Dear Mr. Besnik Dervishi, Commissioner for the Right to Access to Information and Personal Data Protection,

 

The undersigned media freedom and journalists’ organisations are writing to express our serious concern over the recent private data breaches and intimidation of at least two journalists in Albania linked to their reporting on the high-profile vetting process of the now dismissed Head of Tirana Prosecution Office, Elizabeta Imeraj.

Our organisations urge your office to conduct a swift and thorough investigation into the breach of personal data – which was then used to frighten and pressure one of the journalists – and for those involved to answer questions about their role in what appears to be coordinated intimidation of the press.

In late March and early April 2022, Albanian journalist Isa Myzyraj of Ora News faced intimidation from multiple individuals who demanded he stop commenting and reporting on the appeals process for the vetting of Imeraj, which was being carried out as part of a judicial reform project in Albania aimed at rooting out corrupt judges and prosecutors.

The pressure started after Myzyraj posted on social media that some of the online media with non-transparent ownership that had been publishing smear pieces attacking members of the International Monitoring Operation (IMO) – a constitutionally mandated body made up foreign judges and prosecutors which was supervising the vetting process – had links to Imeraj.

One of Myzyraj’s family members was approached by an individual with a deal for the journalist to stop covering the prosecutor. This was followed by a threatening phone call by another individual who said there would be consequences for him and his family if he continued. As the vetting continued, Myzyraj was then sent a message by another individual which contained a screenshot of the certificate of his family from the Civil Registry – a document only available to registered notaries in Albania. The messages contained threats against the journalist and were clearly aimed at intimidating him.

In late April, Edmond Hoxhaj, a journalist at the BIRN Network Albania and Reporter.al who had also been covering the vetting process, discovered a similar suspicious breach of his personal data on the e-Albania portal. Hoxhaj could see that a notary named Agron Bajri, who is the former husband of Elizabeta Imeraj, had generated their family certificate on April 14, 2022, without their authorisation.

In the case of Mr. Hoxhaj, there appears to be clear evidence that the notary, Mr. Bajri, accessed their data without the family’s permission. As Commissioner for the Right to Access to Information and Personal Data Protection, we urge you to firmly establish the facts about this case. The MFRR partners will also write to Agron Bajri with a request to clarify his role in accessing the family certificates of both Mr. Myzyraj and Mr. Hoxhaj without their authorisation. We also welcome the investigation opened by the Tirana Prosecutor’s Office.

At the wider level, our organisations suspect these two cases are linked and are part of the same campaign of harassment against members of the IMO. Pressure and intimidation of journalists reporting on the vetting process of a prosecutor – a clear matter of public interest – are unacceptable and were clearly aimed at frustrating transparency and reporting the much-needed implementation of justice reform. These cases also point to a wider issue of threats to the safety of journalists who investigate the nexus between state authorities and corruption.

Effective investigations and definitive answers on these two cases are needed. Our organisations will follow your investigation closely in the coming weeks and look forward to seeing thorough findings. We will also continue to closely monitor the wider challenges facing media freedom and threats to independent, watchdog journalism in Albania, which plummeted in 2022 to 103rd rank – the last in the Balkans – in RSF’s World Press Freedom Index.

Signed:

ARTICLE 19 Europe

European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)

Free Press Unlimited (FPU)

International Press Institute (IPI)

OBC Transeuropa (OBCT)

Reporters Without Borders (RSF)

Safe Journalists Network

 

  • This letter was sent to Mr. Besnik Dervishi on 9 May 2022.

This letter was coordinated by the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), a Europe-wide mechanism which tracks, monitors and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States and Candidate Countries.

 

Source: International Press Institute

BH Journalists: Stop targeting female journalists on a personal basis!

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Sarajevo / Banja Luka, May 6, 2022 – The Steering Committee of the BH Journalists Association and the Free Media Help Line (FMHL) strongly condemn yesterday’s verbal attack by the president of the Democratic People’s Alliance (DNS) Nenad Nešić on Snežana Mitrović, a journalist of N1 television from Banja Luka.

When asked by the journalist whether he owns real estate in Belgrade like Mirko Šarović, or like some BiH citizens in Dubai, the DNS president verbally attacked N1 journalist and started mentioning her family, stating that the journalist’s brother is a spokesman for a party whose members own real estate in Dubai. After journalists from other media reacted and stood up for their colleague, Nešić apologized, but continued to attack journalist Mitrović, her privacy and personal integrity.

This is another one in a series of verbal attacks in Bosnia and Herzegovina on journalists in the last few months by politicians, in which they seek to discredit media representatives and humiliate them on a personal basis. It is worrying that political leaders and representatives of government institutions respond to journalistic questions with verbal violence, insults and humiliation, and it’s especially alarming that they are increasingly targeting female journalists.

The Steering Committee of BH Journalists once again reminds politicians and all other public officials that it is their right not to answer journalists’ questions if they do not want to, for whatever reason. However, attempts to discredit and violate the personal and professional dignity of journalists can in no way be a political “argument” or a substitute for answers to journalistic questions of importance to the public!

We also draw attention to the recent public reaction of the Steering Committee of BHJA for the inappropriate behavior of Sarajevo government officials, who in a rude and misogynistic manner treated female journalists who, in addition to professional violence, are most often exposed to verbal violence because they are women. According to the Free Media Help Line, close to 70 attacks and threats against female journalists in BiH have been registered in the last three years. That number speaks of a rapid increase in gender-based violence against female journalists, and it is alarming that politicians and other public officials are among the attackers in almost half of the cases.

 

Unacceptable the threatening language of referee Bejtullahu towards journalist Arlind Sadiku

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Arlind Sadiku a sports journalist reported today at the Association of Journalists of Kosovo that he was threatened by referee Mervan Bejtullahu.

According to Sadiku, Bejtullahu openly threatened him before the match Gjilan – Drita, saying to him that “We are in Gjilan, but if we were in Prishtina, I would have beaten you”.

For AJK, such language and behavior is unacceptable and makes it impossible for the journalist to report from the field.

AJK also calls upon the Football Federation of Kosovo – FFK, to take measures against referee Bejtullahu.

Reporting from conflict zones: Journalists share their personal experiences

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Safety and freedom of journalists during conflicts were discussed in the second part of the conference regarding World Press Freedom Day.

Part of this panel discussion was Lyudmila Makey – Journalist from Ukraine, President of the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine, Sergiy Tomilenko, Saranda Ramaj – Journalist at KTV, and Jul Kasapi a journalist from Albania. They shared their personal experiences while reporting from conflict zones.

Lyudmila Makey – a Ukrainian journalist who is currently living in Kosovo, said that since 24th of February her life has changed, but that she feels very grateful for the given opportunity to continue reporting from here.

“Since 24th of February, many Ukrainian journalists have been unemployed and homeless. I am very grateful for the help that Kosovo offered me, and I am really honored to represent the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine. I felt really good from the first second that I arrived in Prishtina, and that is because of the support that my fellow colleagues have been giving to me, and the readiness to hear my experience. However in one of my interviews, I was asked why they should trust Ukrainian journalists, and for this question, I didn’t have an answer till today, and the answer is that you have to trust us so that criminals won’t fabricate the truth”.

President of the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine, Sergiy Tomilenko, joined the conference via an online video call, expressing gratitude for the readiness of the Government of Kosovo to help Ukrainian journalists.

“It is a great honor for me to participate in this conference. Therefore, I would like to share with you briefly our priorities as a union. Of course, our first priority is the safety of journalists and the assistance of our colleagues who are reporting from the occupied areas of Ukraine. We are trying to evacuate journalists to safer areas of Ukraine. Since the beginning of the war, 24 media workers have been killed, four of whom were journalists”, said Tomilenko.

Journalists Saranda Ramaj and Jul Kasapi also shared their personal experiences of reporting from conflict areas.

Ramaj described her reporting from Ukraine as an extraordinary experience and stressed that her intention from the beginning was to report from Ukraine and not the border.

“I think it was more a matter of luck that I managed to get into the Country of Ukraine, due to the fact that we all know about the Kosovo-Ukraine relations and the inability of Kosovan journalists to report from this zone. Personally, I have always thought that I should try to enter Ukraine even though the circumstances are known and for me how problematic it was the lack of experience of reporting from conflict zones because I consider that I am still a young journalist and I have not had a similar previous experience. Therefore, I read more about how to report from these areas and not how to report from the border”.

Meanwhile, the journalist Kasapi, shared his experiences of reporting from Ukraine, reporting from Syria in 2019 from the camps where there were Albanians, and the experience of 2021, reporting from a “war zone” of organized crime in Latin America.

“Having in consideration the experience of reporting from Syria, I knew that we should be close to the army. It is well known how journalists “involve” themselves in a military force and then manage to report from there. In Ukraine, it was a bit more difficult, as we did not have the information that we would have to have a military accreditation, but as it happened to all other journalists, I also had a problem with the Ukrainian army because I filmed one of the entry checkpoints in the city and it was supposed to be one of the strategic points that should not be recorded, but this thing happened because we had no experience reporting in a state where martial law works and when I talk about martial law, it means that police of the country also have to ask the military forces on how they should act”.

Today’s conference was organized in cooperation and with the support of the OSCE Mission in Kosovo and the UN Kosovo Team.

AJK marks World Press Freedom Day 2022: “Press is not the enemy”

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Association of Journalists of Kosovo – AJK, in cooperation and with the support given of the OSCE Mission in Kosovo, the United Nations Team in Kosovo, today organized a conference marking World Press Freedom Day.

Ambassador Michael Davenport – Head of the OSCE Mission in Kosovo, through a video message, said that although Kosovo continues to record high results in the region of media pluralism, cases of threats and attacks on journalists continue to be present.

“We still see many cases of threats or attacks against journalists, including 11 incidents since the beginning of 2022. But this day above all is an opportunity to celebrate the work of courageous media professionals around the world, as well as the role of free and independent media in consolidating democracy and promoting a more transparent and open society. The OSCE Mission will continue to support this great effort here in Kosovo.”

The findings of the report “Kosovo Indicators on the level of Media Freedom and Journalists’ Safety 2021”, conducted by our researcher Getoarbë Mulliqi Bojaj, were presented at the first part of the conference.

The panel consisting of Yll Zekaj – Legal Expert, Abit Hoxha, National Expert, PCK’s Director – Imer Mushkolaj and AJK’s Executive Director Getoarbe Mulliqi Bojaj, discussed the reports findings, as well as its recommendations.

According to these findings, the situation of journalists continues to be serious, both of the pandemic and political changes, the number of attacks on journalists has increased, while the tendency to silence journalists through SLAPP (Strategic lawsuits against public participation) lawsuits is more prominent. While one of the recommendations of the report emphasized the need for journalists to report all cases of violation of their rights, the importance of RTK (Kosovo Public Broadcaster) financial independence, the independence of the selection of RTK and IMC (Independent Media Commission) boards, as and complete the KJC (Kosovo Judicial Council) Data Management System as soon as possible.

The denigrating language used against journalists and its impact on media trust, was discussed at the conference by the panel consisting of Doarsa Kica Xhelili – Chairwoman of the Committee on Public Administration, Local Government, Media and Regional Development of the Assembly of Kosovo; Leonard Kërquki – Director of the Gazeta Express, Rrezarta Delibashzade Krasniqi – Executive Director of NGO D4D and Granit Musliu – Member of the Independent Media Commission.

Currently at the conference is being discussed the safety and the freedom of journalists during reporting from conflict zones.

AJK condemns the pressure and insults towards the KOHA journalist, Agim Ademi

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Agim Ademi – a journalist of the KOHA Group reported today at AJK a series of public insulting after an article he worte about the expenses of the mayor of Shtime, Qemajl Aliu.

Ademi has been called as the “servant of the Klan Pronto”, by the senior official of the Vetëvendosje Movement in Shtime, Halil Kurtishi.

AJK considers such language unacceptable and that directly endangers the safety of journalist Ademi.

AJK invites Mayor Aliu to distance himself from the pressures that are being put on the journalist after his reports, which are based on documents provided by the request for access to public documents.

RSF: Kosovo made progress, but still remains among the “problematic countries” regarding Press Freedom

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Reporters Without Borders has published today the World Press Freedom Index, which ranks Kosovo 61st, unlike last year when it was in 78th place.

While this is a welcome development, Kosovo continues to remain in the category of “problematic countries”, according to this organization.

The report considers the Kosovo media scene to be diverse and praises the process of selecting the RTK Board by the Kosovo Assembly last year. But the report lists a number of concerns.

“Although the journalistic profession enjoys society’s respect, independent media and investigative journalists are often victims of insults and fake news on social networks, and being unjustly accused of “collaborating with the enemy.” Such rhetoric is proffered by political and religious groups”, it is said in the report.

The report also criticizes the restriction of journalists’ access to public documents.

“Journalists have been increasingly targeted by SLAPPs initiated by business groups and politicians. Furthermore, access to public information is hampered by the dysfunctionality of the Information and Privacy Agency. The Copyright Law is not upheld in practice “, the report underlines.

Part of the report refers to the financial difficulties of the media, especially those of minority communities.