Less freedom for journalists

Source/Author: SMCG
Source/Photo: EU Info centar

PODGORICA, 20/11/2017 – More than half Montenegrin journalists believe that their economic situation has worsened considerably in the past year, and only 6% that it has significantly improved, showed the second research “Indicators on the level of media freedom and journalists’ safety” conducted by the Trade Union of Media of Montenegro (SMCG).

SMCG representatives also expressed solidarity with RTV Pljevlja employees who have been on strike since November 17 due to five unpaid earnings.

Presenting a survey in Podgorica, one of the authors, Marijana Camović, SMCG President, pointed out that survey, which was conducted for the purposes of the research, showed that earnings of journalists are still below the average salary at the state level and that more than half of the respondents (54.7 %) receives less than €500. According to Monstat, the number of media employees in 2016 increased for 130.

“Eleven leading media, according to data provided by directors, have employed only 39 persons, so it remains unclear how Monstat came to this number”, Camović said.

Camović also presented data on cases of attacks on journalists. From September 2016 until mid-July 2017, seven incidents have been recorded by the Police Directorate. It is symptomatic is that most of them are classified as misdemeanors.

SMCG President reiterated that the state does not react adequately to cases of violence against journalists and that the prosecution and the police act inefficiently. However, ineffective investigation is not the only problem but also a lack of responsibility because there is no political will to deal with cases of attacks on journalists.

Author of the research Bojana Laković said that poor economic position of journalists in Montenegro is reflected the best in the fact that even 31.3% of respondents are forced to work another paid job, which is a 13% growth compared to the previous year.

Laković presented also that almost 8% of journalists have a status of honorary associate, while approx. 11% of respondents are working under fixed term contract. Also, more than half of respondents claim that their economic situation worsened even comparing to the previous year.

“In addition to economic ones, journalists in their everyday work also face problems regarding their professional status in newsrooms. More and more of them are overburdened, especially due to persistent demands to cover more areas and perform other tasks”, pointed out Laković.

The research has also shown that pressures to create sensational news are increasing. Laković said that in some media journalists face self-censorship in terms of being aware which topics they can cover and who are interlocutors preferred by their editorial.

What is new is increased influence of media owners on the work of journalists and also findings that some politicians and businessmen are in privileged positions due to close relations with managements of some media.

Representative of the EU Delegation to Montenegro Patrick Schmelzer said that in its 2016 report the European Commission noted that Montenegro made no progress in the area of media freedom. “This report presented today is a valuable source to us. I want to stress however that this is the report of Trade Union of Media of Montenegro which is EU funded but it is not the report of the European Commission”, said  Schmelzer, pointing out that the content of the report is sole responsibility of SMCG.

SMCG Vice President Radomir Kračković said that in some segments media situation worsened and one of the most severe examples happened several days ago, when colleagues from Pljevlja Radio-Television went on strike because of five unpaid earnings.

“Local self-government in Pljevlja for some time now has neglecting attitude toward employees, among which are also married couples, of that media. All other municipal employees as well as employees in public companies receive regular salaries, money lacks only for RTV Pljevlja.

The irony is that today is the Day of Pljevlja municipality, so we ask Mirko Đačić, the President of the municipality as well as other municipal officials how they can unworriedly celebrate when their 30 citizens, from RTV Pljevlja, live on the edge of existence for months? We express our full solidarity with them and we invite the authorities to finally resolve this issue because it is time to stop this practice” said Kračković.

Research is part of the project “Regional platform for advocating media freedom and journalists’ safety” which is implemented by SMCG and five journalists associations from the region.