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Montenegro: Media and Freedom of Expression, Regular Report 2012

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Montenegrin independent media and its journalists have been exposed to new attacks and pressures over this year. These were manifested through physical assaults on journalists, financial pressures and legal proceedings. Not surprisingly, therefore, Montenegro is now ranked lower than in the previous year on the Reporters without borders’ report on media freedoms, where its 107th position is the lowest in the region. In Europe, only Belarus, Russia and Ukraine have lower rankings. The enhancement of media freedom has been one the key requirements for obtaining the date for commencement of EU accession negotiations.

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 and political circles.

The case of Olivera Lakic: Daily Vijesti journalist Olivera Lakic has been physically assaulted in the evening hours on March 7, 2012, in front of her house in downtown Podgorica. Ms Lakic wrote last year a series of articles on illegal production of cigarettes in the northern town of Mojkovac. After that, those in that murky business threatened Ms Lakic and her family in several ways, while the police tried to minimize and cover up the case instead of investigating it thoroughly and protecting the journalist.

A few days after the attack, the police arrested one person, who, according to Ms Lakic's best knowledge, did not have any motive to assault her. She insisted that those who commissioned this act be found. She also announced her withdrawal from journalism, until the state authorities resolve the case.

Earlier this month (December 2012), Montenegrin prosecution authorities examined Milenko Rabrenovic, a police officer employed at the Ministry of Internal Affairs, on suspicion that he threatened Olivera Lakic and her daughter after a series of articles about the illegal cigarette trafficking in Montenegro. Mr Rabrenovic was a driver of the former Head of Montenegrin Police Authority Veselin Veljovic when these texts were published.

The case of Veselin Drljevic: In February of 2012, the editor of daily Dan Veselin Drljevic and the photographer of this paper were assaulted by a group of hooligans who inflicted several injuries on Drljevic's face and body. Perpetrators of this attack were found and legal proceedings against them have begun.

The case of arson of Vijesti vehicles: Police did not find out who are the arsonists who torched vehicles of Vijesti. Fire was set on four vehicles of Vijesti in three night operations. Although the representatives of Police and Government have stated that they are diligently working on resolving these cases, no progress has been made after several months of investigation.

Montenegrin police and judiciary did not manage to solve numerous previous cases of physical endangering of journalists and editors in Montenegro, starting with the 2004 murder of publisher and editor Dusko Jovanovic, the 2008 murder of Srdjan Vojicic, who was a guard of Montenegrin poet Jevrem Brkovic. The same applies to subsequent attacks on Tufik Softic, Zeljko Ivanovic, Mladen Stojovic and others. One of the main requests of massive street protests in 2012 and the petition of media professionals sent to EU officials Baroso and Fule was for these cases to be solved.

The persecution of Mihailo Jovovic, Vijesti's Editor in Chief: Three years upon the physical attack by the Podgorica mayor Miomir Mugosa and his son Miljan Mugosa on Mihailo Jovovic, Editor in Chief of Vijesti, and Boris Pejovic, its photographer, the Court has sentenced only conditionally Mayor's son Miljan, although the court practice for all types of severe injuries similar to the one inflicted by Miljan Mugosa is to impose prison sentences. However, even after such an epilogue, the Prosecution has appealed to the Superior Court, whom it is now asking to reverse its decision and to prosecute instead the Editor in Chief for alleged attack on the Mayor's son.

In August 2009, Jovovic and Pejovic were assaulted by Mayor 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.

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

In many public appearances during the last year, the new prime minister and leader of the ruling political party DPS Milo Djukanovic continued the campaign against the independent media. He called the representatives of independent media rodents 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 means possible.

During the recent campaign for parliamentary elections held on 14 October, Djukanovic and his associates engaged more with the independent media than with the opposition. In his speeches, Djukanovic falsely accused the independent media for coordinating the opposition parties and announced the arrest of Miodrag Perovic, co-founder of daily Vijesti and weekly Monitor. During the campaign, Vijesti's correspondent Goran Malidžan was physically assaulted at a DPS party rally in that city.

Media completely or partially funded by the government publish serials about the representatives of independent media, using the hate language and numerous lies. So, the female journalists and civil activists are called prostitutes, while owners and male journalists are presented as fools, animals and national traitors. In the media controlled by DPS, the attacks on independent media are openly ridiculed. The state owned daily Pobjeda is leading this propaganda.

On the other hand, 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 – 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 Vijesti and Dan do. Also, Pobjeda offers very low advertising prices to private companies, thus threatening the independent media to loose its main source of revenue.

The launch of a free daily newspaper and dumping prices by competitors: On the small Montenegrin market, two daily newspapers have been launched over the past year. One of them, ‘Dnevne novine’, was established and distributed without charge for almost a year and, since very recently, is selling at a nominal price of 20 cents, while the other, named ‘Blic’, is selling at a token price of 30 cents. On a market of 650 000 inhabitants, such low dumping prices cannot be economically sustainable. The largest-selling and most influential dailies in Montenegro, ‘Vijesti’ and ‘Dan’, are sold for 70 cents. This fuels strong suspicion that the establishing of media with dumping prices is politically motivated and that the anonymous financiers are willing to invest huge fortunes in order to undermine the independent press. Needless to say, the state authorities entrusted to implement the Law on Protection of Competition are not reacting.

The ownership structure: Most of Montenegrin media are controlled by the top of DPS and are being financed in a nontransparent way. It is unclear who really stands behind them, as a significant majority is bankrupt; some have multimillion losses but still keep functioning. Government covers losses of Pobjeda and public Radio & Television of Montenegro out of its own budget. Behind the others, publicly or secretly, stand tycoons and their companies who support the propaganda in favor of the government. At the same time, the top state and DPS party officials aggressively and falsely depict the owners of daily Vijesti and weekly Monitor, the media that are struggling to survive under such oppressive circumstances, as filthy rich media monopolists and mafia.

Indicative is the case of the daily Pobjeda which remains in a majority ownership of the state, even though the Media Law of 2002 called for the privatization of this house by 2004, at the latest. Since then, two tenders have been ‘unsuccessful’, so the Government continued to finance the newspaper despite the legal provisions forbidding this.

Now, after the third announcement of the tender, the government could cede Pobjeda well below the anticipated conditions of sale. According to recently released information, it could happen that the state assumes the huge debts of Pobjeda, which amount to about 20 million. The only bidder is the Bosnian company Avaz. Owner of Avaz is controversial Fahrudin Radoncic, a longtime friend of Milo Djukanovic. Messrs Radoncic and Djukanovic were Montenegrin Communist Party officials before the multiparty system was introduced.

Court cases: Journalist of the weekly Monitor Veseljko Koprivica won the case against Montenegro in the European Court for Human Rights in Strasbourg. Explanation of judges in Strasbourg was that the penalty and damage charges for alleged libel, which were assigned to Koprivica in Montenegrin court, were not in accordance with the practice of HRC in Strasbourg. This court ruling is a great encouragement, since in the last few years dailies Vijesti and Dan and weekly Monitor paid over 300 000 euros for alleged libel and pain and suffering of the plaintiffs, former 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.

The verdict in Koprivica vs. Montenegro could positively influence the courts in Montenegro, which currently deal with many court proceedings for libel against dailies Dan and Vijesti and weekly Monitor.

It is encouraging that the Constitutional Court of Montenegro at the beginning of this year overturned the verdict of the Supreme Court against the weekly Monitor and its journalist Andrej Nikolaidis. The Constitutional Court in its interpretation of judgment called on the practice of the Court in Strasbourg.

Lawsuit by Ana Kolarevic: On the same day that it was announced that the Prime Minister will be Milo Djukanovic, his sister and lawyer Ana Kolarevic filed a lawsuit against dailies Vijesti and Dan, and the weekly Monitor, seeking compensation of 100,000 euros from each of them. The pretext is the alleged mental pain that she has suffered as a result of their reporting on the Telecom affair. Earlier this year, the US court authorities in New York opened a 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 appeared, when it was clear that her brother would return to the post of Prime Minister.

Public Radio and Television: Advisory Committee of the Public Broadcasting Service (RTCG), after the overturn of the former managing director, appointed the new one – Rade Vojvodic. Mr Vojvodic was a long term director of the private television ‘IN’, which was subsequently liquidated following a bankruptcy. He is also a close friend of Milo Djukanovic. In an ambitious program, Mr Vojvodic has announced reforms and drastic decrease of number of employees. While layoffs were initiated, Mr Vojvodic brought to RTCG most of his personnel from TV IN. According to the Independent labor union of RTCG, their hiring was in collision with the Employment law.

Although the arrival of the new management improved the viewership rating of public broadcasting services, the quality of the programme is still questionable. The editorial board now insists on entertainment and sports, for airing the Champions League, for example. and which absorb significant state budgetary funds. At the same time, educational, scientific and informative programme, which are the foundation of every public service broadcast, still have inadequate professional standards. In the news programs, the primacy is still 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 is accused by some members of its Advisory 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. For more than ten years, Fiesta has been an agent for leasing of satellite services for RTCG. Interestingly, the company “Fiesta” was in the middle of the corruption scandal associated with the privatization of Montenegrin Telekom.

Self regulatory bodies: After several months of deliberations, in which local OSCE and EU delegation representatives also took part, the Montenegrin media community decided to establish two self-regulatory bodies. In March 2012, the ‘Media self-regulatory body’ was formed, bringing together 19 electronic and print media. A significant number of these media is financed from state and local budgets, while a majority of them does not keep distance from the ruling structures. Since their inception, they have commented mostly the activities of dailies Vijesti and Dan, TV Vijesti and weekly Monitor, instead of focusing on their founders.

On the other hand, dailies Vijesti and Dan and the weekly Monitor, which had advocated the establishment of two separate bodies since the beginning of these deliberations – one which would deal with issues of self-regulation in the print media and the other in the electronic media – formed a working group for establishment of a Press council. The working group has drafted the key documents and announced the creation of the Council.


Željko Ivanović, CEO daily Vijesti

Mladen Milutinović, CEO daily Dan
Milka Tadić Mijović, CEO Monitor weekly

Podgorica, 27 December 2012

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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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