PODGORICA, 15.05.2023. – The analysis of the judicial practice of cases involving threats to the safety of journalists in the period from 2012 to 2022, done by the Trade Union of Media of Montenegro, identified 55 court proceedings before basic and misdemeanor courts in Montenegro.
Of that number, 35 cases were (or are still ) conducted before basic courts, while 20 of them were or are still being conducted before misdemeanor courts.
When it comes to misdemeanor courts, in the last ten years, according to the data provided to the research team, 20 cases were initiated due to threats to the safety of journalists and other media workers. Of that number, 6 are active, while 12 cases have been legally terminated, and there is no data for 2 cases. Most cases were in the Court for Misdemeanors in Podgorica (14), five cases were initiated in Budva and one in Bijelo Polje.
Out of a total of 35 cases that were conducted in the basic courts, 29 of them were finally concluded, while six proceedings are still ongoing. In the analyzed period, cases were conducted in six basic courts, in Podgorica (15), Bijelo Polje (5), Pljevlja (1), Kolašin (1), Kotor (2) and Nikšić (7). When it comes to active cases, there are 3 in Nikšić, 2 in Bijelo Polje, and one is also active in Podgorica. Of the six active cases, only one dates from 2021, while the others were initiated in 2022.
When it comes to injured parties, the majority of proceedings are conducted due to endangering the safety of male persons (23). As many as 20 cases were initiated due to threats to the safety of women in the media, and in five cases, groups or several representatives of the media were harmed. No data is available for 7 cases. The situation is similar when it comes to proceedings before basic courts. Women were harmed in 14 cases, men in 16 cases, and a group of media workers in 4 cases.
The collected data show that in most cases of endangering the safety of journalists that were brought before the basic courts, it was about persons who worked at the Vijesti newspaper (16). Five cases of endangering the safety of Dan employees were also registered, and in three cases in which the victims were persons who worked for RTCG, TV Vijesti and Monitor.
In the largest number of cases that were conducted before the basic courts in Montenegro, convictions were handed down (23), while acquittals were handed down in six cases. The remaining six cases are still active.
When it comes to convictions, a suspended sentence was not awarded in 22 cases. Seven convictions for endangering the safety of journalists and/or other media workers provided for a conditional sentence for the perpetrator.
The analysis showed that the punishments for the perpetrators of acts that threaten the safety of journalists and other media workers most often referred to prison sentences, in as many as 20 cases. Prison sentences ranged from 30 days to 15 months, but the average prison sentence was 5 months.
In one case, the perpetrator of the crime was fined 800 euros, in one case he was sentenced to 100 hours of community service, in one case he was sentenced to 4 months in prison followed by a fine, while no data is available for one case.
The average duration of court proceedings is 9 months, but there were examples of cases being resolved in a record time (1.5 months). However, even in five cases, the trial lasted more than one year, and the longest proceedings lasted a record 35 months. All the cases that were conducted for more than one year were initiated in the Basic Court in Podgorica, and in all of them the injured parties worked for the same media – the independent daily Vijesti.
Only in one case did the second-instance authority revise the decision of the Basic Court in Podgorica and in the specific case increased the prison sentence by five to nine months.
Out of a total of 29 completed cases, as many as 18 refer to the criminal offense of endangering security, three to violent behavior, two each to coercion, grievous bodily harm and causing general danger, and one to false reporting and illegal possession of weapons.
During 2022, a total of seven criminal proceedings were conducted in basic courts in Montenegro, for criminal offenses whose qualified forms in use since 2022. Of that number, five cases are still active, three in Nikšić and one in Bijelo Polje and Podgorica, while two ended with convictions against the attackers. In one case, the attacker was sentenced to three months in prison for the criminal offense of coercion, where the court did not refer to the qualified form, while in another case the attacker was sentenced to four months in prison for the criminal offense of endangering security. In this case, the court pointed out in its verdict that it was a crime committed to the detriment of persons performing work of public importance, which means that it is the first conviction under the provisions of the amended Criminal Code in the part that refers to journalists and media workers.
This article was created through the project “Safety of journalists through judicial practice” implemented by the Media Union of Montenegro (SMCG). The project is supported by the Center for Monitoring and Research (CeMI) within the program “Access to justice and human rights in Montenegro – Trial monitoring project 2021 – 2023” financed by the European Union and co-financed by the Ministry of Public Administration.
The content of the article is the sole responsibility of SMCG and does not necessarily reflect the views of CeMI, the European Union or the Ministry of Public Administration.