Human Rights Action (HRA) has submitted to the Ministry of Culture proposals of 11 amendments to the Draft Media Act. Amendments concern more detailed protection of the right to privacy and the exclusion of liability of journalists for damages, of journalists’ independence from the founders of the media, the responsibility of Internet portals for comments and circumstances under which the journalist could be forced to disclose the source of information. We think the working group of the Ministry of Culture has drafted a solid Draft Act, which would have to be further specified in order to ensure implementation of the law in accordance with international standards of freedom of expression and protection of human rights. The text of the amendments in Montenegrin is available here.
HRA’s proposals rely on an earlier proposal of the organisation for amendments to the Media Act, drafted by its working group in July 2015, which the working group of the Ministry of Culture took into account and accepted a significant part of (¾).
HRA has in the meantime also published a collection of short reviews of the European Court of Human Rights’ judgments on freedom of expressionin a total of 30 topics, which may compliment discussion upon drafting new law on the media.
HRA has been since 2010 continuously advocating for amendments to the 2002 Media Act, the oldest media act in the region. In November 2010, HRA announced the Proposal for a Reform of Liability for Breach of Honour and Reputation in Montenegro (Defamation and Insult Law Reform), which contained the proposal for decriminalisation of Chapter XVII of the Criminal Code of Montenegro, the prescription of new criminal offenses for the protection of journalists and amendments of the provisions of the Media Act in relation to the standard of due journalistic attention, exclusion of liability for damages, limitation of the amount of compensation for non-material damage due to violation of honor and reputation, etc. Criminal offenses Defamation and Insult were decriminalized in 2011, but not other offenses from Chapter XVII, nor did it introduce stronger criminal protection of journalists. In July 2015, HRA organized a discussion on the need to amend the Media Act with the participation of Ministers of Culture and Justice, Dr. Pavle Goranović and Zoran Pažin. In November 2015, HRA sent a proposal to the relevant committee of the Parliament of Montenegro to hold a consultative debate on the need for amending the Media Act in accordance with the recommendation of the European Commission in the Guidelines for Support to Media Freedom and Media Integrity in the Western Balkans and Turkey 2014-2020. Although the debate was never held, at the beginning of July 2016, three deputies of the opposition parties URA, Demos and SDP (Dritan Abazović, Zoran Miljanić and Rifat Rastoder) submitted to the Parliament a proposal for amendments to the Media Act, which, among other things, contained HRA proposals and this was not adopted. OSCE Media Representative Dunja Mijatović expressed concern in a letter to the Prime Minister on 27 July 2016, about proposed amendments in media laws in Montenegro and drew attention to specific provisions which, in her opinion, could have an adverse effect on media pluralism. In relation to the Media Act, she expressed her concern only in terms of wording of the provisions on state advertising in the media, which was not included in HRA proposal.
Public debate on the Draft of the Media Act and the Draft Law on Amendments to the Law on National Public Broadcasters The Radio and Television of Montenegro will last until 20 February 2019.