Brussels is seriously concerned with the state of media freedom in Montenegro: No progress

The European Commission (EC) is seriously concerned about the political interference in the work of the Public Service (RTCG) and the Agency for Electronic Media (AEM), according to a new report on Montenegro, which concluded that there was no progress in the area of freedom of expression.

The Report notes that Montenegro has achieved some level of preparation on freedom of expression, but no progress was made. It also notes that there have been no notable developments regarding investigations into old cases of violence against journalists.

“Recent political interference in the national public broadcaster Council and the Agency for Electronic Media are a matter of serious concern”, states the Report.

The EC therefore, recommended that greater efforts need to be made regarding investigations of attacks on journalists, as well as to strengthen the financial and editorial independence of RTCG and AEM.

EC recommended strengthening the capacity of self-regulatory bodies, added that the media scene remains highly polarised and challenges in understanding the role of free media persists. As in the previous 2016 report, Brussels states that the number of defamation cases remains high, mainly due to weak self-regulatory mechanisms.

Head of the Delegation of the European Union (EU) to Montenegro Aivo Orav after the presentation of the Report commented on the political interference in the work of RTCG Council, and said that their position was clearly written in the Report – that it is a matter of serious concern.

Commenting on the EC Report, Deputy Prime Minister Zoran Pažin stated that the Government had already envisaged amendments to the media law and the law on the national public broadcaster.

“Representatives of the media and civil society will be involved in the drafting of these laws”, said Pažin.

Commenting on the findings in the Report regarding political interference in RTCG and AEM’s which presents matter of serious concern, Pažin said that he perceived the term “serious concern” as the need for institutions to work more heavily in the field.

“When it comes to political influence, I will always condemn it. I am equally concerned by the JUFREX report, which states that the Public Service has been taken over by the traditional opposition. The public service should not be a polygon for the political competition of the authorities and the opposition, we should make the Public Service truly independent and professional”, said Pažin.

He also said that the Government will contribute to Public Service strengthening.

“This is a true need of the society, and the Government, within its competencies, will make its contribution, primarily through the change of the normative framework that should be an incentive for strengthening the Public Service and improving professional and ethical standards”, said Pažin, adding that he very carefully follows RTCG program and notable progress is evident in developing professional and ethical standards.

He also pointed out that a significant aspect of media freedom is the issue of sustainable and effective self-regulation of the media.

“One part of the responsibility should be borne by the media themselves, and the Government will provide support and resources to help them”, said Pažin.

Reviewing the EC Report, former Minister of European Integration Gordana Đurović told for RTCG that the EC was reasonably analyzing in detail the improvement of legislation and the protection of media freedom.

“I think that this area will continue to be in the focus and it is to be expected that the EU will help in this process”, said Đurović.

The article was republished from with permission.