Ombudsman: To provide editorial independence of Public Broadcaster Service RTCG

Source/Author: SMCG

PODGORICA, 13.07.2019. – “The Protector of Human Rights and Freedoms expressed concern and pointed out that it is not good that the situation in the Radio Television of Montenegro (RTCG) provokes such public attention, in terms of independence and professionalism, which should be an unquestionable value and standard for the functioning of the Public Broadcaster Service”, it was assessed in the Ombudsman work Report for the past year, in the part relating to the freedom of the media.

“Editorial independence must be provided and public confidence in work of Public Broadcaster Service based exclusively on observing the rules of the profession, Ethical code and law, independent of political and other influence of any options and groups, must be built. Court decisions on dismissals in the RTCG further influenced the public’s confidence in the procedures and reasons for these dismissals. It will take some time for the situation to improve, and we hope the Law on Amendments to the Law on National Public Broadcasting Radio-Television of Montenegro will do that”, the report states.

In the year 2018 the Police administration of Montenegro registered four attacks on journalists, reminds Ombudsman. All cases were qualified as criminal offenses and prosecuted by the competent prosecutor.

“In the first case, the competent prosecutor filed an indictment against one person for the commission of a criminal offense of endangering prolonged security, in another case the criminal complaint was lodged against one person for threatening security, while the third event was qualified as an illegal possession of weapons and explosive devices, so they filed a criminal complaint against two persons. The fourth case was qualified as a serious physical injury, which resulted in the processing of nine people”, the document states.

How they say, one case from 2015 is solved. It is a serious theft at the detriment of a journalist, and a special report was submitted to the competent prosecutor against a minor.

On the other hand, the Protector also recalls that the Commission for Monitoring Investigation of Attack on Journalists in the conclusions of the last report states that “investigating attacks on journalists and media assets should be more effective”.

In this document, as in previous reports, recommendations for each individual case were given to the competent authorities, however, the Commission still has no data on their implementation.

“The Commission notes that the case of wounding journalist Olivera Lakic in May 2018 shows that attacks on journalists continue and requires that the competent state authorities invest all of their resources in detecting the perpetrators of this crime, as well as all others that have not been found so far”, Report writes.

The Ombudsman also reiterates the Trade Union of Media of Montenegro (TUMM) that the changes that took place on the media scene in Montenegro and in the media per se during the last year were not significant and did not increase the freedom of the media or the safety of journalists.

“More than a third of the interviewed journalists (35%) receive a salary of 400-500 euros, and every third journalist receives less than 400 euros. Wages in private media are higher than those in state ownership”, the report says.

As many as 63% of respondents said that the journalists’ working hours had somewhat increased in the previous period, and every fifth journalist is not free to join the union. About 60% of the respondents said, that the economic position of journalists was in some extent or very weak, and only a little less than 9% of the respondents believe that it strengthened partially or very. Almost 80% of the interviewed journalists said that editors have an exceptional, large or partial impact on their work, while only 17% of respondents said that editors influence poorly or not at all affect their work.

In the context of the amendments to the Law of Media, the proposals of the Trade Union of Media of Montenegro which were related to the introduction of the obligation of the media to have a statute specifying the manner in which the editor-in-chief will be appointed, as well as the introduction of guarantees that the text in the public interest will be published regardless of the attitude of the owner have not been adopted. It was, as they explained, an attempt to reduce the autocensure, censorship and influence of the owners on editorial policy, the Protector’s report said, referring to the TUMM.