On the eve of protests held on Saturday, 24 October 2015, Human Rights Action sent a letter to the Minister of the Interior, Raško Konjević, Police Directorate director, Slavko Stojanović, and head of the Regional Police Unit Podgorica, Branislav Živković, pointing to international standards on journalistic reporting during public protests and related police actions since the existing legislation in Montenegro regulates this area insufficiently.
HRA highlighted that the European Court of Human Rights has in its recent judgment in case Pentikäinen v. Finland emphasized the key role of the media for providing information to the public on police conduct against demonstrators, and especially on how they supress violent protests, and that the Council of Europe Venice Commission and the OSCE (ODIHR) emphasised in the Guidelines on freedom of peaceful assembly (2nd edition) that: “Third parties (such as monitors, journalists, and photographers) may also be asked to disperse, but they should not be prevented from observing and recording the policing operation…” as well as that “Photographing or video recording the policing operation by participants and other third parties should not be prevented, and any requirement to surrender film or digitally recorded images or footage to the law enforcement agencies should be subject to prior judicial scrutiny.”
HRA particularly emphasised the importance of the Montenegro’s Council for Civil Control of Police recommendations for the Police Directorate, as well as the media, adopted by this body on 20 October 2015, the same day the a/m ECtHR decision has been published:
“…the police officers should, at all pubic assemblies, enable undisturbed work of the media and the presence of journalists, and refrain from unnecessarily restricting their freedom of movement or reporting. Enabling professional work of journalists and other media professionals, and their reporting on public assemblies, is in public interest and the police organisation itself when it comes to police conduct and usage of police authority. Bearing in mind the information from the Police Directorate, the Council recommended journalists, editors and media and journalistic associations, to consider useful examples from comparative practice in order to improve visibility of the press at public assemblies, particularly those with increased tensions. In this regard the Council urged the Police to initiate direct dialogue and communication with the media and journalistic associations in order to take preventive action against potential misunderstandings and disabling the media to report freely and carry out their legitimate and socially extremely important work. “
The letter to the Minister, Police Directorate director, and the Head of the Regional Police Unit Podgorica is available here (in Montenegrin).