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Montenegro – Media and freedom of expression after EC’s Progress Report 2010

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After the adoption of Progress Report in 2010, where European Commission emphasized seven areas, including press freedom and freedom of expression that should be improved so Montenegro could get a date to start negotiations on the EU membership, the Government publicly declared commitment to changes and fulfilment of the tasks.

New PM Igor Luksic immediately brought certain improvements – more tolerant language and a new style in relation to the media and civil society. A bill was introduced to decriminalize defamation.

The government gave specific help of €5 million to the electronic media (to pay taxes for the signal transfer), that significantly improved the financial situation of private broadcasters. The Government also supported the printed media, by bailing out the big newspaper distributor Bega press in the amount of € 800.000. It made possible for all Montenegrin publishers to get 85% of their receivables that Bega press owed to dailies Dan, Vijesti and Pobjeda and to the weekly Monitor.

However, despite these positive examples, the media that are not controlled by the ruling circles continue to have serious problems in Montenegro.

The state has never solved the cases of physical attacks on Montenegrin journalists, including the murder of newspaper editor Dusko Jovanovic. Even worse, when the perpetrators are known, the state still fails to dispense justice and sends a clear message to those who continue to criticize the government and write about organized crime and corruption.

Pressure on the daily Vijesti: In July and August, in three actions, unknown individuals have put on fire 4 cars of the daily Vijesti. In statements following the first incident, Director of Police Veselin Veljovic and Prime Minister Luksic, agreed that this was just an ‘isolated case’. Unfortunately, they turned to be wrong, since the attacks continued while the perpetrators have still not been found and there are no signs of progress in the investigation.

It is interesting that in two cases, cars were set on fire immediately after interviews that former prime minister Milo Djukanovic gave in July to daily Pobjeda in August to Serbian TV Kosava. In each interview, Djukanovic strongly attacked the independent media, particularly the daily Vijesti.

The Persecution of Mihailo Jovovic, Vijesti's Editor in Chief: In September 2011, a court case was initiated against the Editor-in-Chief of the daily Vijesti. In August 2009, the then deputy editor-in-chief Mihailo Jovovic and photojournalist Boris Pejovic were assaulted by Mayor of Podgorica Miomir Mugosa and his son while covering a story on Mayor's repeated illegal parking and the functioning of the city's communal police. The journalists were threatened with a gun by the Mayor's son and Mr. Jovovic was admitted to hospital with a ruptured eardrum.

Colluding with the Mayor, police failed to take any evidence from the scene, including the gun, while prosecutors falsely indicted Mr. Jovovic for attacking the Mayor's driver and causing him serious brain injury, contrary to two expert medical opinions.

At the end, almost two years after the event, instead of investigating and prosecuting the Mayor, his son and driver, the prosecutor indicted Mr. Jovovic for inflicting minor injuries in the form of scratch to the driver's head with his mobile phone. He based that only on Mr. Jovovic's admission that he had a mobile phone and a tape recorder in his hands during the incident, because all other claims by the Mayor, his son and driver that Jovovic hit the driver with his hand, fist or elbow were refuted by the court experts.

Anyhow, the prosecutor decided that a mobile phone is a tool or weapon that could have seriously endangered one's health or life (up to now, prosecutors and courts considered that such tools or weapons were metal bars, baseball bats, guns, knifes, etc.) in order to have a more serious legal qualification of the alleged crime in the indictment, so that Mr. Jovovic could go to jail up to three years, if convicted.

The Mayor was fined €400 for misdemeanor, but was not charged with assaulting the Vijesti journalists and instigating the attack. The Mayor suffered no political consequences and was publicly supported by the Prime Minister and other high ruling party officials.

Treatment of the independent media representatives as criminals and enemies: In a TV interview, the state prosecutor Ranka Carapic put in the same rank Vijesti founders and members of Darko Saric's organized drugs cartel. However, she did not cite any evidence for such false claims while announcing the criminal procedure against the owners of the daily for alleged irregularities on the stock exchange. Earlier, the same prosecutor used to announce criminal procedure against Vijesti owners for other alleged crimes, but she said that she cannot do it now due to the statute of limitation, and that she was focusing on a new investigation now.

In an interview to the state TV, former PM Milo Đukanović, who is still at the helm of the ruling DPS, said that there is no opposition in Montenegro, and that „our biggest problem are some media centers that are trying to stir chaos in the DPS”.

These dangerous statements were followed by a smear propaganda against the independent media, led by media controlled by the ruling circles close to Djukanovic. The representatives of the independent media have been accused for being disloyal to the Montenegrin state and depicted as non-patriotic, even for belonging to the organized crime.

Only in the independent media one can find serious investigative pieces on corruption, non-transparent privatizations, links of the political elite with criminals, etc. The aim is clear – they are trying to silence and discipline the independent media, their founders, editors and journalists by publicly lynching them.

Financial pressures through advertising: The biggest portion of the total advertising budget from the state institutions – the national and local governments, agencies, ministries, state owned companies – goes mostly to the media controlled by the state and ruling political structures

The state companies and government institutions place most of the print ads in the daily Pobjeda, that has three times smaller circulation than private dailies Dan and Vijesti.

Pobjeda sells its advertising space to the state companies and institutions for much higher prices than do Vijesti and Dan. Also, Pobjeda offers very law advertising prices to private companies, threatening thus the independent media to lose its main source of revenue.

The oldest daily, state owned Pobjeda, should have been privatized according to the Media Law already in 2002, so that it would not have the monopolistic position. That has not been done so far. Despite the state advertising monopoly, being financed from the state budget, Pobjeda incurred a loss of €4.2 million last year. Until recently, the political director of the ruling Djukanovic's DPS was the President of Board of Pobjeda. Pobjeda leads the propaganda campaign against the independent media. During 2010 and 2011. A series of 60 articles has been published using a hate speech against representatives of Vijesti and Monitor, which have often been portrayed in these texts as an organized criminal group.

Court cases: Despite numerous announcements and statements that they would stop with persecution of independent media through the courts, Montenegrin courts delivered several decisions for libel, without sound reasoning, and the fines were much higher than those prescribed by the European Court Of Human Rights in Strasbourg. The Monitor weekly was recently fined for alleged defamation to pay €4.000, which is significantly higher than six monthly average wages, which is the Strasbourg Court practice.

Lawsuits against independent media are usually initiated by representatives of political and business elite, but also by the suspects from the organized crime ranks. Among plaintiffs against dailies Vijesti and Dan, and the weekly Monitor, are former prime minister Milo Djukanovic, suspected narcoboss Safet Kalic, cigarette trafficker Stanko Subotic Cane, and the war minister of interior in Republika Srpska Tomislav Kovac, suspected for war crimes and alliance with Radovan Karadzic. Some of the cases have been concluded with hefty fines against independent media, while others are still underway.

Public radio and television: RTCG has stayed captured and under complete domination of the ruling political circles. Its program does not reflect the public interest and serves mostly as propaganda of the ruling structures. There is no pluralism of ideas and subjects, there is no proportional representation of different social groups. In the news programs, the primacy is given to the ruling parties and leading government officials, while the information on actions and views of the opposition and civil society representatives significantly lags behind. RTCG TV journalist Marko Milacic was replaced as the main news anchor and now works in international news, because he publicly expressed his critical views of the ruling DPS. He was told that his contract would not be extended and that he would lose his job at RTCG.

Branko Vojicic, general manager of RTCG was replaced on 28 July 2011, after the RTCG Council refused to adopt the financial statements for 2010. According to media articles, the State Audit Institution report on RTCG cites numerous examples of non-transparent financial transactions.

Self regulatory body: The new self regulatory body has not been formed in Montenegro, but thanks to OSCE efforts a working group has been formed in order to agree the modalities of the future body. Members of the working groups are representatives of te state and controlled media – Pobjeda, RTCG and Radio Antena M. As well as representatives of the independent media – Vijesti, Dan and Monitor.

It is questionable to talk about self regulatory body in the country were most of the media, controlled by powerful people, above all by the ex PM Djukanovic, is used to persecute independent media. Even if we left aside this blatant fact, it is clear that Djukanovic's media intention is to make self regulatory body look like the RTCG Council, the body that would looks after and protects Djukanovic's family private interests and not professional standards. The media controlled by the powerful structures argue for so called united self regulatory body, while independent media representatives want a kind of a ‘press council’, whereby the Broadcasting Agency would regulate the electronic media, which is already its function by law.

Independent media representatives argue for self regulatory body that would look after professional standards, ethics and advice, in order to help media with suggestions and criticisms to be more objective, while giving possibility to the public to complain, highlighting mistakes and breaches of code of ethics. On the other side is the intention of the controlled media to form the so called united body, where they would have a majority and control self regulation.

The media that are the furthest from the professional standards simply do not have interest to form self regulatory body as a serious institution. We reiterate that none of the cases with elements of corruption and organized crime at the highest level was investigated by these media.

The champions of the investigative journalism are Vijesti, Dan and Monitor, and those media are under attack by the courts and the executive. Their journalists were also subject to brutal physical attacks in the last several years.

Pressure by the criminal structures: Representatives of the independent media have a huge problem with regard to security and normal functioning of their newsrooms due to the pressures from the criminal circles. In the last six months we had a drastic case of persecution of Vijesti journalist Olja Lakic, who wrote a series of articles on illegal production of cigarettes in the northern town of Mojkovac.

After that, those in that murky business have threatened Mrs Lakic and her family in several ways, while the police tried to minimize and cover it up, instead of investigating it thoroughly and protecting the journalist.

On the basis of these facts, we believe that changes in the media freedom and freedom of expression are minimal. The biggest problem is the heavy burden and practice of the former PM Djukanovic that PM Luksic, despite democratic rhetoric, obviously cannot fight off yet.

Milka Tadić Mijović
CEO Monitor, weekly

Željko Ivanović
CEO Vijesti, daily newspaper

Podgorica
13.09.2011.

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IN ENGLISH

SILENT KILLER: DRUG ADDICTION AMONG YOUNG PEOPLE IN MONTENEGRO: Growing Hopelessness

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Young people in Montenegro can reach dugs within half an hour. They often consume it in school backyards, most commonly marijuana, and the use of heavy psychoactive substances is increasing. Many of them suffer from psychological disorders. Monitor's interviewees agree that we don’t talk about this enough, and that we lack support of the society as a whole.

 

“They use drugs wherever they can, mostly in the schoolyard. They choose places where cameras can't capture them, and those who want to get “stuff” turn to them. In most cases, it is marijuana”, said student A.S. from Electro-Technical High School Vaso Aligrudic in Podgorica.

Last year's research of the Ombudsman Children and Addiction Diseases in Montenegro showed as well that drug addiction is one of the burning problems of young people in Montenegro. According to the research, which included 37 elementary and 25 high schools, marijuana was used by more than 11 percent of students, while on average, more than eight students consumed heavy drugs. “Half of drug addicts use one substance and the other half use two or more substances. Students in Montenegro use significantly more illegal (heavy) drugs than the EU average”, the study said. As many as 16 percent of students said that illicit substances were often consumed at school, and besides, there was an increase in the use of synthetic drugs, which are cheap and easily available.

“Those for whom I know that use marijuana do it behind the school. They did it before on the fire stairs. The most problematic is easy availability of drugs”, said student Z.K. from Economics High School Mirko Vesovic in Podgorica. More than 25 percent of the students that participated in the Ombudsman's research reported a similar view. If one wants drugs, it will take him half to several hours to get it, which is disturbing.

Dijana Milosevic, from Public Institution Kakaricka Gora, an institution for accommodation, rehabilitation and re-socialization of users of psychoactive substances in Podgorica said for Monitor that it generally began with marijuana “The adolescence itself, is the greatest crisis period of each individual, when identity problems naturally appear, difficulties in accepting authority, as well as a tendency to experiment with “forbidden things.” All these are favorable conditions for an adolescent to come into contact with psychoactive substances. There is a persistent misconception among young people that marijuana is not a drug or that it is an “easy drug” which facilitates entering into problem. Most often marijuana is the first substance that addicts consume. Besides consequences which it leaves on the psyche of the consumer, this is a misconception that can cost them their lives”.

According to her, the reasons why young people use drugs are mainly dissatisfaction, concern or rebellion against authority, boredom, family problems, peer violence as well as opinion that cigarettes, alcohol or drugs are some kind of “gateway” to a certain group of peers.

“Behind our school sports hall, you can often see older guys who give marijuana to children. It happens almost every day and its favorite gathering place”, told us  another student of Electro-Technical High School Vaso Aligrudic.

Monitor addressed this issue to most of the high schools in Podgorica. The question what they did to restrain this problem, even after weeks of waiting, has not been answered.

“We do not work enough in schools with adolescents, when it comes to drug addiction. However, the reason for that is not in schools, but rather in insufficient involvement of institutions, which should tackle more with this problem. We cannot expect from schools to deal with the education of children and to be a police officer and someone who, among other responsibilities, will work with children on restraining this phenomenon. That is why they need help from both the institutions and the civil sector. Everybody has to deal with this phenomenon. Every year its presence in educational institutions is increasing”, said to Monitor NGO Euromost, whose main goal is to support fight against drugs abuse and all forms of addiction.

Drug abuse increased everywhere in the world, and the same happened in our country, regardless of the actions taken through health, educational, legal system, noted psychologist Natasa Vukovic, who works with peer educators as a part of NGO Euromost actions. “The number of drug users is becoming more noticeable among young people, among high school students and even elderly elementary school students. There are no harmless drugs. The continuous, systemic and systematic action of the whole society is necessary. The aim above all must be that children and young people never turn to drugs”.

According to her, inadequate assistance and lack of support from the family, primarily parents, who have failed to maintain a relationship of trust with their children, and who have failed to “impose” desirable role models, make young people an “easy target”.

“Eighteenth birthday celebrations are particularly problematic. Sometimes flats, where they mix two or three types of drugs and large amounts of alcohol, are being rented. Mostly, this refers to grammar school graduates. My daughter went to one such birthday celebration and she called me to pick her up, shocked and dreadful. She didn't know what was going on there. And parents have no idea”, said for Monitor Patricija Pobric, Director of NGO Our Action.

She claims that a deeper involvement in drug addiction is often preceded by some criminal acts: “Usually, as of the third grade of high school, young people are recruited to buy ID cards by older students. These kids turn to drugs afterwards. They are “carriers” and it’s easy to involve them in petty crimes. They later buy motorcycles and cars from that money “.

Many start using drugs because they expect that it will help them deal with problems on a daily basis. Many start out of curiosity, with the well-known – ‘I will just try it’. Asked why someone became an addict and someone did not, especially if persons grew up in similar circumstances or even in the same family, Natasa Vukovic said that there was no clear and definite answer: “The only certain conclusion is that you should clearly advise everyone not to try psychoactive substance because one does not know in advance whether he/she is sensitive to it, which would mean that even a single intake already creates a psychic need for re-taking it. Such patients exist in practice, and they have a common characteristic that they “immediately liked the drug”.

Euromost noted that in addition to combating drug trafficking, we should work also on improving prevention of drug addiction among youth: “Upon completing the training of the first peer educators, Euromost, besides Bijelo Polje, has expanded its workshops to other northern municipalities, such as Plav, Gusinje and Rozaje. The number of participants is the best indicator of youth interest. However, in order for this to be successful, it is necessary to constantly communicate with young people and listen to what they have to say. It is not really useful just to find an expert who will explain them what the drug is and how it looks like”.

Natasa Vukovic, pointed out for Monitor, that addiction can be closely related to young people’s mental problems. Mind and mental healthcare is still a taboo topic in Montenegro. “It is true that in recent years more and more young people have sought help and advice of psychologists, but still shyly, almost always asking for visits not to be evidenced, and that parents do not find out about it, because it is often very difficult for them to accept the fact that their child goes to a psychologist or psychiatrist”, she said.

The state has similar approach. “There is no institution in our country where young people with a mental illness can be treated”, warned Vukovic.

In Montenegro, National Register on Drug Addiction has been maintained since 2013 by the Institute for Public Health, but it functions only on the basis of data collected from health institutions. There is no information about those who are not reported. According to recent estimates, there are more than 15,000 drug addicts in Montenegro.

How many of them are young people and children is not precisely known. The results of the research are discouraging. Monitor's interviewees agree – there is a lack of communication and cooperation between institutions, schools, parents and young people. And the problem of addiction is not the problem of the individual, but of the whole society.

Milo Popovic and Andrea Jelic

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HOW HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS ACCEPTED STAY-AT-HOME AND SOCIAL DISTANCING ORDERS: Time of Worrying and Learning

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It has been shown that keeping prescribed distance without physical contact, shaking hands, hugging … is one of the least respected measures among surveyed high school students. According to received answers, the only recommendation that was less respected was the one concerning wearing of protective equipment

 

Do high school students in Podgorica and to what extent respect the measures taken to prevent coronavirus spread? Through social networks, we surveyed about 200 students, from all high schools in Podgorica, to find out first-hand, how they cope with recommendations and measures that, among other things, limit movement and outdoor activities.

“Ever since the coronavirus appeared in Montenegro and since the Government announced the protective measures, I fully comply with them,” Elena Dabetic told us. “I haven't been out of the house since March, even when I have to go to the store, I go with full equipment: masks, gloves, and I keep distance from other people. Quarantine was not difficult for me since I’ve focused on some other activities, for which I did not have time, such as drawing. I kill boredom by playing online video games with my friends, watching movies, reading books, etc. I believe that people just need to think positively and use this time to work on themselves; well, we have a lot of time and we will learn more to appreciate going out after all this.”

Others, again, relativized the danger and explained why they did not exactly adhere to the imposed measures of social distancing. In fact, it was shown that keeping a prescribed distance of 1-2 meters without physical contact, shaking hands, hugging…was one of the least respected measures among surveyed high school students. Only every tenth respondent respected this experts’ recommendation. Even less number of respondents, according to received answers, respected recommendation concerning wearing of protective equipment. It was respected by every fifth research participant.

“When it comes to quarantine, I was relaxed at first, but when the situation intensified, I took it more seriously,” said Isidora Milatovic. “It is difficult for me to get used to it. This is the first time I am faced with situation like this. I spend my time learning, so I don't really do any other activities. I sincerely hope that the situation will stabilize and that we will soon return to a normal life. ”

Her peer Danilo Kujacic explained: “I accept quarantine well, since my usual lifestyle is not much different. I spend most of my day at the computer. I go out with friends in the evening or occasionally, go out for training. I think the current situation is exaggerated and not half as significant as the media present it.”

A significant number of young people, according to their own testimonies, comply with the recommendations and stay at home. Survey has found that watching series and movies, playing games on a phone/computer and using social networks are three of the most common activities young people currently do. According to collected data, every tenth respondent takes an online course, learns a foreign language and (or) reads extracurricular literature.

Milica Radulovic stated that the current situation disturbed everyone's usual activities, but, as she said, we must accept this way of life. “We all eagerly wait for measures to ease, but until that happens, we must use this time as good as possible. I suggest that we all devote this time to ourselves: by doing home-based training, reading a book, studying, but also communicating with friends through social networks. If after doing all of these you still have spare time, you can always watch a series or a movie…”, said our interviewee. And she concluded: “I really miss gatherings in the neighbourhood, but these measures must be respected if we want to get back to our old habits as soon as possible.”

In our survey, high school students cited several common reasons why they went out: a third of surveyed participants went out to shop at stores and pharmacies; a quarter for a walk or training in nature; every fifth for meeting and hanging out with friends… Boris Janjusevic said: “It was strange at first, but over time I got used to it. I spend my time doing homework, but of course I play games more than usual. As usual I spare an hour, an hour and a half of time for training.”

Given the new circumstances, interaction between students and professors in the school classroom has been replaced by online teaching, a platform and a website. Survey showed that most students did assignments, presentations, essays which professors gave, as well as that they studied provided resources. However, based on the results, two-thirds of high school students were not satisfied with online teaching, since, as they said, new way of work, to which they were not used to, required more work, effort and time than “traditional” class attendance.

Almost everyone missed social life, going out and socializing (without set limits). “I am very bored in quarantine and it has been difficult for me to find anything interesting to do”, notes S.P. who wanted to remain anonymous. “I usually play games, write songs, listen to music or do my homework. The current situation has great impact on us and our psyche. When all this is over, the consequences will be visible in our country, as well as in the whole world”, he said.

On the other hand, a smaller number of respondents said that they did not have any difficulties during quarantine. They believe that there has not been any other situation in which they would have so much time to devote to themselves and to improve their skills and potentials. Thus, M.P. explained: “I learn languages ​​during quarantine. I try to organize myself well, especially because of my school obligations. Of course, this is not always possible, but I manage. I also watch movies, communicate with friends, and read books. This is a chance to correct most of the mistakes, because time, despite the space barrier, works in our favour. ”

We spoke with Patricia Pobric, a civic activist and Executive Director of the NGO Our Action, about the behaviour of young people in this new situation caused by coronavirus pandemic and in what way they can make useful contribution.

“One who understands young people understands that current situation is most difficult to them. It's still easy for kids to have fun at home with toys and other activities, but young people are, by their nature, very social beings. They like to move, to socialize, go out…Although we consider that they are too much attached to their phones, physical socializing means a lot to them. In general, I think most young people understood the significance of the situation, and that it was accepted with understanding but not with fear. Only young people to whom parents, relatives, and media transferred fear, showed it.”

Pobric however, pointed out that there were also undesirable examples. “It happens that a small number of young men drives their vehicles after curfew, or organize trips and barbecues and do not respect social distancing. My advice to young members of NGO Our Action, from the beginning of quarantine, was to spend time after online school activities not only on games and internet, but also on planting, working on farms, gardens, learning new skills at home and in nature.” Photos prove that some have accepted the advice.

Zana KNEZEVIC

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IN ENGLISH

PUBLIC CALL CIN-CG: EMPOWERING RE POPULATION TO ACESS THE LABOR MARKET

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Centre for Investigative Journalism of Montenegro (CIN-CG), in the framework of the project:

“Empowering RE population to access the labor market”

(project provided with the financial support of the European Union and the Government of Montenegro)

is publishing:

A PUBLIC CALL

For training in the media industry – 25 interns from RE population

(Training for journalists, cameramen, graphic designers, workers in printing plant and other jobs in electronic, print and online media)

The training will consist of two stages. The first stage includes two-month training for 25 participants, for which fee will be provided. Following the first stage training, the Commission will select five trainees who show the best tendencies for work in the media. A five-month employment contract will be signed with them. The participants will be trained in media work and they will be involved in media production, for which they will receive regular monthly salary.

The Call is open for unemployed members of RE population residing in the territory of Montenegro who completed at least a primary school and are registered with the Employment Agency of Montenegro. Priority will be given to candidates with high school and college degrees.

Interested candidates should send their applications with a CV, confirmation from the records of the Employment Agency of Montenegro and motivational letter by 15/02/2020 at the latest, by e-mail to: konkurscincg@gmail.com, or to the address: CIN-CG, Trg nezavisnosti bb, 81000 Podgorica.

 

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