RESEARCH: Strengthening Public Trust in the Media in Montenegro

Complementing research on hate and propaganda models of media and communication and hate narratives conducted earlier as part of SEENPM’s Resilience project, this report analyses media trust and media gender issues in Montenegro and offers a set of policy recommendations.

The study was intended to establish whether citizens believe they are correctly and fully informed by the media and how strengthening public trust in the media can help raise professional standards and prevent the spreading of disinformation.

For the purpose of this research, a public opinion poll was carried out as well as a focus group with journalists and editors. This analysis was carried out based on the findings, providing guidelines for institutions, civil society organizations and the media community in building social resilience to disinformation, hate speech and propaganda. The analysis also provides recommendations for improving public trust in the media.

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The public opinion poll shows that the majority of respondents claim they trust the media. The majority of them follow television news daily and believe that this is the medium releasing correct and complete information. More than half of respondents use online media and social networks daily but there is a distinct distrust of social media as a source of information.

Opinions are divided when it comes to trusting the Public Broadcaster. The same percentage (48%) of respondents believe that this media outlet is delivering correct and complete information as those who have the opposite opinion. Journalists and editors from different Montenegrin media to whom we presented the results of the public opinion poll and who discussed them in the focus group said that such positions are a consequence of the general polarisation in the Montenegrin society and that national or political identity significantly influence people’s views and their perception of the Public Broadcaster. On the whole, they agree that it is necessary to work on improving public trust in the Public Broadcaster to make it a more professional outlet that people will have most trust in.

Journalists and editors agree that the fact that people trust traditional media the most is encouraging and represents a chance for Montenegrin media, especially national television stations, to create professional content and adhere to standards. The influence on public opinion of those media spreading disinformation and conspiracy theories could be reduced by strengthening public trust in the traditional media.

Although most respondents generally trust the media and consider that media outlets publish correct and reliable information, they also expressed distinctly negative standpoints on the media. Most of the respondents think that media does not contribute to the development of democracy or serve the public interest. They also believe that media outlets spread hatred, disinformation and political propaganda and that they are neither independent nor impartial. Journalists and editors, participants in our focus group, think that such standpoints expressed by the people are, on the one hand, contradictory, and, on the other, concerning because they call into question the efforts that journalists and media are making, in adverse conditions, to do their job in the best way possible.

Focus group participants agree that there is a significant room for improving the work of the Montenegrin media and adherence to professional standards as preconditions for strengthening public trust in the media. However, they also think that, along with professional media, society also needs media literate citizens, who can distinguish credible media from those that aren’t. Therefore, they perceive both journalists and editors as important actors in promoting media literacy and developing critical thinking among the population.

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This publication was produced within Resilience: Civil Society for Media Free of Hate and Disinformation, a regional project financially supported by the European Union and implemented in the Western Balkans and Turkey by a consortium of media development organizations led by SEENPM. It is part of a series of publications on media trust and gender issues based on research conducted in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey (all publications are available on the SEENPM website).

Read the previous reports on Montenegro: 

The Political and Economic Foundations of the Media and Communications in Montenegro that Spread Hatred, Propaganda and Disinformation 

Analysis of Narratives Containing Hate Speech and Disinformation

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Funded by the European Union

The regional program RESILIENCE: Civil society action to reaffirm media freedom and counter disinformation and hateful propaganda in Western Balkans and Turkey’ is implemented with the financial support of the European Union by partner organizations SEENPMAlbanian Media InstituteMediacentar Sarajevo, Kosovo 2.0Montenegrin Media InstituteMacedonian Institute for MediaNovi Sad School of JournalismPeace Institute and Bianet.

This article was produced with the financial support of the European Union. Its contents are the sole responsibility of SEENPM and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.