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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

DISCRIMINATION OF CHILDREN WHO TRAIN GYMNASTICS:  No Use of Being Talented

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Dejan Vucevic, the only international gymnastics judge in Montenegro, claims that gymnastics in Montenegro has been put to an end and that more than 100 children, who train it in Podgorica, have no opportunities to participate in competitions.

 

“There is only rhythmic gymnastics in Montenegro, the sports gymnastics has been put to an end,” says Dejan Vucevic, the only international gymnastics judge in Montenegro. Vucevic has spent his whole life in gymnastics, first as a competitor, and then, for decades, as a trainer.

He explains that there are more than 100 trainees in gymnastics and many talents in Podgorica, but there is no place where they can show their skills. They are denied access to domestic and international competitions. He accuses the Gymnastics Federation of Montenegro (GFM) that it completely disregarded sports gymnastics.

The result of such work, according to Vucevic, is that talented gymnasts go to the region: “Due to lack of conditions here children go to the region. Thus, two boys and one girl that I trained, who compete for Serbia now, have over 100 medals. I'm not glad that, instead for their own home, they win medals for another one, “Vucevic said.

Vucevic was one of the founders of the Gymnastics Federation of Montenegro (GFM), in which he was a member of the Assembly and the Chairman of the Board of Directors. He was a GFM’s delegate in 2010, when this Federation was admitted to the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG[1]). “The Federation was established in 1994, and if we had been fortunate, this February, we would have celebrated 25 years of existence. Currently it has been turned into a rhythmic gymnastics federation,” he says.

Vucevic claims that already unfavourable conditions in this sport culminated in 2014 when new management was elected and when GFM’s central office was moved from Podgorica to Budva. He states that this followed after the disappearance of the Federation document and seal, and that new management was not elected according to the rules.

Vesna Radonic, President of GFM, denies Vucevic's allegations regarding unlawful election of the new management: “GFM operates in accordance with the Montenegrin Sports Law, which came into force in 2018, and it also must align all its activities with the rules of FIG and UEG[2]. Therefore, no one can say that GFM was not established according to the procedures. This was confirmed by several inspection visits that came and checked the regularity of GFM work. All inspectors had a positive opinion on GFM’s work, “says GFM President for Weekly Monitor.

Vucevic claims that the new management of the Federation, as soon as it assumed its functions, disabled his gymnasts from participating in the international competition due to his public talks about the irregularities in the Federation: “The Federation sent us a dispatch that we cannot participate in the competition. They disallowed our children to compete – they could only perform within a non-competitive part of the event.”

Through the gymnastics club Gorica, which was led by Vucevic, generations of athletes have passed. Vucevic said that many top athletes started with gymnastics in this club, who in addition to gymnastics achieved results in other sports. He also pointed out to a number of students of the Faculty for Sport and Physical Education, who worked with this club.  However, he explains that current situation disallows talents in sports gymnastics to compete at home, regional and international levels.

Neither Ministry of Sports has done anything to improve the situation – Vucevic says that since the registration of clubs had begun – seven gymnastics clubs were closed. “I submitted an application for the club Gorica to the Ministry of Sports and I was told that it was not complete. I asked if I could update it and the response was positive.  Later, when I went there I was told that I cannot do that, “he explains.

Radonic however, claims that the problem is lack of licenses. “Clubs in order to compete in international competitions must meet the basic criteria of FIG, UEG, and GFM. The basic criteria are licenses in GFM, UEG and FIG. Unfortunately, our competitors are licensed only in GFM. Another problem is the lack of educated trainers and judges which is a requirement for competing at the international scene. This means that they currently, do not have FIG and UEG licenses, “she says.

She insists that sports gymnastics exists in Montenegro: “Sports gymnastics clubs are a club from Niksic and a club from Herceg Novi. These clubs compete within Montenegrin system of competitions according to the GFM calendar”. However, she does not deny that this sport in Montenegro is at a low level. “Due to objective reasons – lack of adequate training space and lack of tools necessary for quality performance of sports gymnastics”.

Vucevic on the other hand claims that “as far as sports gymnastics is concerned, our Federation is terminated. This Federation in Budva has nothing to do with sports gymnastics. I would like to ask institutions to who they give money to – 10.000 euros last year and 25.000 this year. Everywhere in the world, rhythmic gymnastics is separated from the sports, except here in Montenegro. ”

Radonic says that GFM did not close its door to anyone. “We repeatedly invited all sports and other gymnastics clubs to join GFM and to take part in all other activities carried out by the GFM.”

Cooperation with this questionable Federation is still impossible, says Vucevic and emphasizes that gymnastics is a sport in which competitors and trainers must advance their selves whole life: “But the persons in the Federation obviously do not care about the improvement and progress of children, it seems that other things, out of sports field, are for them in the first place.”

Vucevic has been waiting for years for a meeting with the Minister of Sports, Nikola Janovic.

“I’ve been requesting a meeting with Janovic for three years and I cannot reach him. I would like to talk to him as an athlete and to inform him about the situation regarding gymnastics. I believe that the Minister does not even know that I have been unsuccessfully, requesting a meeting for years. ”

There was no one to approve the sports hall

Vucevic said that, a few years ago, he visited primary and secondary schools in Podgorica with an elaborate on the construction of gymnastic hall. He explains that an international organization was willing to donate a hall. The plan envisaged for school to use the hall from the morning till 14:00h, while the club would use it from 16:00 to 22:00h. It was projected as the gymnastics center of Montenegro, which would have all necessary sports infrastructure, but also general children's health care provider and dental clinic. Vucevic said that at that time, famous gymnast from Slovenia, Miroslav Cerar promised to donate, upon the arrangement of the hall, two sets of gymnastics devices.

“When we presented the plan to directors of schools, they were thrilled, but they told us that they cannot do anything without the Ministry and the Minister,” says Vucevic.

In the end, they were told by the Ministry to avoid opening of sports halls within schools.

 

Predrag Nikolić

 

[1] Fédération Internationale de Gymnastique – FIG

[2] UEG – European Union of Gymnastics

 

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IN ENGLISH

Montenegro: Media and Freedom of Expression, Regular Report 2013

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In 2013, Montenegrin independent media and its representatives have been exposed to stronger and more vicious attacks and pressures than in the previous years. Independent dailies Vijesti and Dan and the weekly Monitor continued to be the main targets. These were manifested through physical assaults on journalists and independent paper's premises, financial pressures and legal proceedings. Not surprisingly, therefore, Montenegro is now ranked on the Reporters without Borders’ list on media freedoms at the 113th position, which is lower than year before when Montenegro was on 107th place. In Europe, only Macedonia, Belarus, Russia and Ukraine have lower rankings, while in the region Bosnia is at 68th position, Serbia on 63th.

The 2013 EU Progress Report contains the following statements in this regard:”The involvement of public officials, in particular police officers, in cases of intimidation and assaults against journalists remains a source of serious concern, as does the recent rise in cases of violence against journalists. All old and recent cases of threats and violence need to be thoroughly investigated and prosecuted” and, “Freedom of expression needs to be strengthened, including by properly investigating all cases of violence and threats against journalists and bringing perpetrators to justice.”

The case of Tufik Softic: In August 2013, Mr. Tufik Softic, a journalist of the weekly Monitor and daily Vijesti was attacked by an explosive device activated in the front yard of his house that has damaged his car. This journalist was also attacked 6 years ago at the same location where he was brutally beaten by several persons. No person has ever been held responsible for the violent acts against the journalist, who at that time suffered serious injuries. In his reporting for Monitor and Vijesti, Mr. Softic investigated smugglings of cigarettes and other illegal goods in the northern region of Montenegro.

The case of Miodrag Babovic and Luka Zekovic: Journalist and a photographer of the daily Vijesti, were attacked on 3 September by Vladimir-Beba Popović, director of the newly founded NGO Institute for Public Policy and former Communications Chief of the Serbian Government, while performing their regular duties in front of the Institute's premises. Mr Popovic took away the camera from the journalists and attacked them verbally, while Mr Zoran Jovanovic, a bodyguard of Prime Minister Djukanovic, was standing next to him. Vijesti filed a suit against Mr Popovic, but the same was rejected. Beforehand, Prime Minister Djukanovic stated that the attack was fabricated and that “it never happened.”

The case of Olivera Lakic: On 20 July 2012, the Basic Court of Podgorica sentenced Ivan Buskovic to nine months in prison for physically attacking Vijesti reporter Ms Olivera Lakic on March 7, 2012.The attack, preceded by threats against Lakic and her family, followed articles she wrote alleging that cigarettes with fake branding were illegally produced at the tobacco factory in the northern town of Mojkovac. Ivan Buskovic, a 29-year-old petty criminal whom Lakic recognized as her attacker, according to Ms Lakic did not have any motive to assault her. Authorities continue to investigate whether Buskovic was operating under the orders of others, an issue the court did not address. In December 2012, Montenegrin prosecution authorities examined in relation to this case Mr Milenko Rabrenovic, a police officer and driver of Mr Veselin Veljovic, former head of the Montenegrin Police Authority, but the motives, master-minders and organizers of these attacks are still unknown.

The case of Vijesti premises: Stones have been thrown twice on Vijesti's premises. This happened during the Pride Parade, on 20 October 2013 and a month later. Although there is a video record of the second attack, no one has been held responsible for the same.

Police authorities have still not found the arsonists who torched four vehicle of Vijesti during summer 2011. Although representatives of the police and government claim that they are diligently working on these cases, no progress can be reported in their resolving to date.

The case of Milena Perovic: President of the Assembly of the Municipality of Kolasin, Mr. Mile Sukovic conveyed threats to Monitor's journalist Ms Perovic in a telephone conversation with a representative of the weekly's editorial board. This happened during summer, after Ms Perovic wrote an article describing business deals and the political career of Mr Sukovic. The Prosecutor's Office initiated a case against Mr Sukovic in this regard. The case is now under consideration by the Basic court of Kolasin.

The case of Milka Tadic Mijovic: Executive Director of Monitor has received a threatening and vulgar SMS message on 16 November that she reported to the police. Although the message was sent from an unprotected telephone number, police authorities have still not disclosed the identity of the author of these threats.

The case of Marko Milacic: Monitor's journalist was physically attacked in a restaurant by Veselin Barovic, a Montenegrin businessman and his bodyguards. Mr Barovic is a close friend of Prime Minister Djukanovic. The first level court concluded that Mr Barovic was not guilty, but the second level court has returned the case for reconsideration by the first level court.

The case of Aleksandar Vuckovic: Vijesti's journalist has been verbally attacked on 11 December by Dragan Djurickovic, the coach of the Montenegrin boxing team and member of the Montenegrin Special Police Force. A court case was launched against Mr Djurickovic, who has been punished in the meantime by his superiors and removed to another unit in the Police.

The case of bomb explosion in front of Vijesti's premises: On 26 December, shortly before midnight, a strong bomb explosion shook the offices of the daily Vijesti. Fortunately, no one was hurt in the blast, which appeared to target a room used by Editor-in-Chief Mihailo Jovovic, shattering windows and damaging the facade of the Vijesti building. Jovovic was in his office and another 15 people were in the building at the time of bombing. Police authorities have not found who was involved in this terroristic act.

Montenegrin police and judiciary did not manage to solve numerous previous cases of physical attacks on journalists and editors in Montenegro, starting with the 2004 murder of publisher and editor of daily Dan, Mr Dusko Jovanovic, the 2008 murder of Srdjan Vojicic in 2008, a guard of Montenegrin poet Jevrem Brkovic, followed by the attacks on Tufik Softic, Jevrem Brkovic, Zeljko Ivanovic, Mladen Stojovic, Olivera Lakic and others. Minister of Internal Affairs Rasko Konjevic has announced that an independent commission will be formed to investigate the unsolved attacks on journalists and that the same will include representatives of independent media and civil society organizations.

Treatment of the independent media representatives as criminals and enemies: 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.

In numerous public appearances over the past year, Prime Minister and leader of the ruling political party DPS Milo Djukanovic continued campaigning against the independent media. Public verbal attacks on independent media by the Prime Minister and other senior state officials are highly inflammatory. For example, in an October 2013 public radio interview, Mr. Djukanovic referred to a co-founder of Vijesti and Monitor as “the leader of the Montenegrin media mafia” and predicted the imminent closure of these media outlets. In November 2013, he also attended an exhibition of the state-funded conference “Words, Pictures and the Enemy”, whose key purpose was to portray the independent media as “the enemy” of the state.

Prime Minister Djukanovic depicted the representatives of independent media as rats that need to be deratized. On more than one occasion, Djukanovic has repeated that media and civil activists represent a major barrier on the Montenegrin road towards Europe, that they chase away foreign investors by writing about corruption and organized crime, and that they want to bring down the current administration by all possible means.

Mr Djukanovic falsely accused the independent media for coordinating the opposition parties, and for founding parties. Last year, he announced the arrest of Miodrag Perovic, co-founder of the daily Vijesti and the weekly Monitor.

This propaganda is coordinated by top DPS officials, with advisory support by the Public Policy Institute, and is implemented by the daily Pobjeda, TV Pink and TV 777. Pobjeda has published several serials about the independent media and its representatives, using hate language and grossly distorting facts. In them, female journalists and civil activists are called prostitutes, while owners and male journalists are presented as fools, animals and national traitors.

Damaging false claims by Pobjeda and PINK TV in October and November have included allegations that Vijesti's and Monitor's founders are corrupt and involved in criminal gangs and statements that TV Vijesti's audience is falling (an attempt to deter advertisers). In 2010, Pobjeda published a series of 43 articles, whose excerpts are occasionally reprinted. They contain, among others, false claims that Vijesti's owners had engaged in tax evasion and had links with the organised crime.

On the other hand, only in the independent media one can find serious investigative pieces on corruption, non-transparent privatizations, links between the political elite and criminals, etc. The aim is clear – 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. A recent research conducted by the Center for Civic Education, has concluded that the state-controlled daily Pobjeda, albeit with the smallest circulation, benefits from the greatest number of advertisings by the state institutions and enterprises.

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

The ownership structure: Media controlled by the ruling DPS officials are financed in a non-transparent way and it remains unclear who really owns them. Most of them are bankrupt; some have multi-million losses but still keep functioning. Government covers losses of Pobjeda by means of unlawful state aid, while the Radio Television of Montenegro is directly funded by the budget. Behind other media, publicly or secretly, stand tycoons and their companies who support government's propaganda and interests. This distorts competition on the media market and degrades professional standards.

Indicative is the case of daily Pobjeda which remains in state ownership, even though the Media Law of 2002 foresaw its privatization by 2004. Two ill-prepared tenders launched in the meantime have predictably failed, so the Government is continuing to finance the newspaper in violation of the laws on competition and state aid. The state subsidy to Pobjeda accumulated since 2004 totaled 24 million Euros by the end of 2012. Besides domestic laws, this continuous illegal practice infringes directly on the country's Stabilisation and Association Agreement that prohibit unlawful state aid and threatens to squeeze the private print media out the market. Several appeals made by EU representatives on the Montenegrin government to relinquish ownership control and stop subsidizing the daily have been ignored.

Court cases: In the last few years dailies Vijesti and Dan and weekly Monitor have paid over 300 000 Euros for alleged libel and for pain and suffering of the plaintiffs, Prime Minister Djukanovic and his close representatives of business elite included. In a majority of these cases penalties imposed in the Montenegrin courts have not been in accordance with the practice of HRC and have jeopardized the economic survival of these media, and thus the freedom of speech and expression.

Lawsuit by Ana Kolarevic: The sister of PM Milo Djukanovic, lawyer Ana Kolarevic filed a lawsuit against independent papers Vijesti, Monitor and Dan, seeking compensation of 100,000 Euros from each of these papers. The pretext is the alleged mental pain that she has suffered as a result of the medias’ reporting on the Telecom affair. Earlier, the US court authorities in New York opened high-level corruption case related to the Telecom privatisation in 2005. In New York Court documents, Prime Minister Djukanovic's sister is brought in connection with this affair and its dubious contracts, which were highlighted by the media that she is now suing. Ms Kolarevic has decided to file a lawsuit only ten months after the first articles, when it was clear that her brother will return to the post of Prime Minister.

Kolarevic lost the cases against Dan and Monitor, but won the case against Vijesti, although this lawsuit was identical to those against Dan and Vijesti.

Public radio and television: The editorial board of RTV Montenegro insists on entertainment and sport, which get lots of funds that are set aside (for example airing the Champions League). At the same time educational, scientific and informative program, which are the foundations of every public service broadcast productions that are below professional standards. In the news programs, the primacy is still given to the ruling parties and leading government officials, while the activities and views of the opposition and civil society representatives are under-represented.

RTV Montenegro is accused by some members of its Board for non-transparent allocation of funds in previous years, as well as for closing suspicious contracts worth millions with the off shore company Fiesta. This company has been for more than ten years an agent for leasing of satellite services for RTV Montenegro. Interestingly, the company”Fiesta” was in the middle of corruption scandal during the privatization of the Montenegrin Telecom company.

Self regulatory body: Media Self-Regulation Council (Medijski savjet za samoregulaciju -MSS) which brought together 19 print and electronic media was formed in March 2012. A significant number of these media is financed from state and local budgets, while the majority does not keep distance from the ruling structures. This body focuses its activity on regulation of media that are not its members, as are Vijest and Dan and fails to notice the obvious breaches of ethical standards by its own founders. The well known NGO Human Rights Action has made this observation in its recent monitoring report on the activities of self-regulatory bodies which also confirmed suspicions that media who are members of MSS are the most frequent violators of the Journalistic Codex and ethical norms..

On the other hand, daily Vijesti founded its own self -regulatory body, media ombudsman as well as TV Vijesti.

Milka Tadić Mijović, CEO Weekly Monitor,
Željko Ivanović, CEO Daily Vijesti

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IN ENGLISH

It would be too little if he just left

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Monitor weekly, 28 June 2013
It would be too little if he just left

It is clear – whoever presses him, Djukanovic cannot go. Due to fear, he has returned to the post of prime minister. Just consider what he has on his back – from the bankrupt aluminium industry to the dozens of unsolved high profile murders. He has missed all good chances to pull out. And is now a hostage of his own policy and numerous criminal fraternity, that he has been protecting for decades.

Just because the prime minister is an ex-person in politics, a helium balloon that could pop off at any moment, anything could happen in the coming months – from violence against opponents, to riots due to rising poverty. The cash box is empty, there is no money, and major entrepreneurs Saric, Kalić and Kelmendi and are either on the run or in jail … The troubles are great. And are visible on the leader.

His eyes look tired. His hands nervously spin while he tells the Parliament that he will not leave the office on the 13 July state holiday. He's trying to be funny. This is a dangerous phase for dictators in the twilight hours. He is boasting that he will not bow down to Brussels, as some did before to Belgrade. He, allegedly, never did that. All his truths are alike.

He is still fervently defended only by the Farm, Baby and the played out Kusovac. And the Siamese twins with a joint brain Antenna – Analytica . One could not say who looks sadder. The junior coalition SDP partner wisely says that a fall of the government would not be a disaster, that Lekić's result proves that changes are possible, that the opposition is maturing. Another sign that there is something in the story that the powerful global addresses are turning a blind eye on Djukanovic.

The opposition SNP party leader Srdja Milic, who asked the Prime Minister whether he would resign, said that he was prompted to do it by the people in the government and the opposition who have good information from the international community. In turn, the opposition PZP leader Nebojsa Medojević, as usual, is more direct – Brussels is asking Djukanovic to go. This was denied by both Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Brussels.

According to one source, Djukanovic is being intimidated by the Europol report in which, apparently, his role can be seen in the infamous DDT – Drugs, Diamonds and Tobacco smuggling. The Sanader case is peanuts compared to this, claims Monitor's interlocutor.

However, it is less important who said what to Djukanovic. Strategically, the region is entering a new phase. Croatia is in the EU and Serbia will soon start the accession negotiations, which eliminates one of the main factors of instability in the Balkans. The EU and the US can now dedicate themselves more thoroughly to Montenegro and its vital troubles. A new attitude is emerging that a systemic change is necessary here – the transition from a totalitarian to an open society, in which the government would be replaceable. And for that, a personality change at the top would not sufficient, although it is also presumed.

This new approach is already in motion. Formally, Brussels has conceded the presidential elections, but the doubts regarding their legitimacy subsist. Full support has been given to the demands of the opposition and civil society for investigating the scandal ‘Recordings’ and for conducting a comprehensive review of the electoral rules. Also requested are urgent amendments to the Constitution aimed at reforming the judiciary.

The latest blow to the ruling DPS party came from the Venice Commission through its proposal that a qualified majority in the parliament should elect the State Prosecutor, constitutional judges and four members of the Judiciary Council. This deprives the ruling party the opportunity not only to choose single-handedly but also to block the election of main judiciary officials. So, it would be possible for the opposition and the junior coaltiton SDP party to agree on solutions that suit them.

International officials have already warned several times the authorities for faking the fight against corruption and organized crime and for suppressing media freedoms. Less loudly, but not less strongly, they have protested against the awarding of unlawful state aid to failed offshore companies of suspicious ownership structure and to the regime's daily Pobjeda.

The transition from a captured to an open society is not possible with Djukanovic. Everyone knows that. It is not sufficient to have the SDP illusion to make-up the system and to bring changes through a better personnel policy. By, say, sending the Mayor of Podgorica to an ambassadorial position, and by relieving the prime minister from the front office.

After this dark quarter century, Montenegro needs much more than ‘sanaderisation’ – the rule of law, the curbing of endemic corruption and of total control over economic resources, repressive and propaganda apparatus. The preparation of the first free elections. The articulating and strengthening of the democratic alternative to which Miodrag Lekic has already given a stamp. Finally, the gathering of all the anti-regime forces around one goal – a free, democratic Montenegro.


Milka Tadic-Mijovic

(Reprinted by daily Vijesti on 1 July 2013
http://www.vijesti.me/kolumne/malo-je-da-ode-kolumna-136627)

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