Montenegro is not providing sufficient conditions for development of free and critical journalism. On the one hand, there is no progress in solving and punishing the most serious cases of violence against critical journalists, and on the other, the practice of the courts in civil proceedings against the media to protect the honor and reputation is still not in line with case law of the European Court of Human Rights on freedom of expression. The unfavorable environment created by the lack of rule of law adds to poor economic conditions for the survival of the media and development of investigative journalism on the small market of Montenegro.
HRA recalls that since last year there has been no concrete progress in revealing the masterminds and perpetrators of the murder of the Editor in Chief of the daily Dan, Duško Jovanović, while the only accused accomplice has again been convicted for involvement in the murder. In the meantime, no result has come from the suspended investigation on the attempted murder on the journalist Tufik Softić from 2007, while the investigation into the circumstances of planting an explosive device in front of his house in 2013 has seen no progress. No further information has neither emerged about the investigation on the attack on the writer Jevrem Brković and killing of his companion Srđan Vojičić, on the attack on journalist Mladen Stojović, nor on the burning of cars that were property of the daily Vijesti, and were accused of “bombing” on Vijesti, then acquitted. (More detailed information about the prosecution of all reported attacks on journalists and threats against journalists will soon be published in special report by HRA). HRA reminds that, according to the European Court of Human Rights, a quick response by the authorities in the investigations is essential for public confidence in the ability of the authorities to maintain the rule of law, as well as to prevent any appearance of collusion with the perpetrators of the attack power or to tolerate serious crimes.
At the end of 2015, the mandate of the Commission for Monitoring Actions of Competent State Authorities Regarding Investigations of Cases of Attacks on Journalists, formed on 6 February, 2014, expired, with no significant results.
Over the past year, the Government has not supported the proposal of the HRA and Media Trade Union to introduce new criminal offences for increased criminal law protection of journalists and other professionals who are at particular risk of attacks when performing work in the public interest, such as state officers, for whom such protection already exists.
The final practice of courts in civil proceedings relevant to the interpretation of freedom of expression of the media in relation to the protection of honor and reputation is still not in line with the views of the European Court of Human Rights. Lately, were sentenced the weekly Monitor and daily Dan i Vijesti in the lawsuit against the Prime Minister of Montenegro’s sister, who is a lawyer by profession, and because they published her photo to illustrate articles about the complaints of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which found that the ‘sister lawyer of top Government official’ is involved in corrupt contracts in the privatisation of Montenegro Telekom. Although the evidence on which the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission based its allegations were not enough for the Montenegro State Prosecutor’s Office to take action in that case, Montenegro high courts and the Supreme Court did not take into account the views of the European Court of Human Rights that a journalist has no obligation to check the official report of the state organs, such as the Securities and Exchange Commission, and that it is not obliged to refrain from writing about something that is not able to fully demonstrate.
To ensure the implementation of the standards from the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights, HRA believes Montenegro should provide amendments to the Media Law and ensure that the evaluation of judges takes into account the evaluation of their performance from the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights.
Although in December 2015 the Committee on Political System, Judiciary and Administration of the Parliament of Montenegro decided to hold a hearing on the need for amending the Media Law, that hearing has not been scheduled yet.