Human Rights Action (HRA) strongly condemns the attack on journalist of daily Dan, Vladimir Otašević, which, according to the complaint filed by the journalist, took place yesterday, on 3 December 2019, at the Delta Shopping Center in Podgorica, after he photographed a state prosecutor in the company of a person suspected of committing a crime.
Journalist Otašević reported to the police that he was physically assaulted by the bodyguard of businessman Zoran Bećirović, against whom, as reported by Dan, the Basic State Prosecutor’s Office in Podgorica formed the case on suspicion of endangering the safety of a court expert from Kolašin and trying to prevent taking of evidence. A person who presented himself as Bećirović’s bodyguard physically attacked journalist Otašević for photographing Bećirović in the company of the Senior State Prosecutor Miloš Šoškić.
HRA points out that unjustified use of physical force against a journalist must be punished. Photographing Bećirović and Šoškić in public was not illegal. Based on European standards, they are public figures who are obliged to tolerate increased media attention. The fact that the person against whom the criminal complaint is filed is associated with the public prosecutor is of legitimate public interest. In such a case, the right of the public to be informed in a democratic society prevails over the right to privacy.
We appeal to all relevant institutions to urgently investigate all circumstances of this event and to inform the public of the results of the investigation. The attack on yet another journalist must be seen as an attack on the democratic order of Montenegro, a country that guaranteed both to its citizens and the international community that it would ensure media freedom. We expect the State Prosecutor’s Office to specifically investigate allegations made in Dan about the conduct of the prosecutor Šoškić, who allegedly did nothing to stop the attack on the journalist. We expect the Ministry of Interior Affairs (MIA) to inform the public and whether it is true that the attacker, Mladen Mijatović, is an employee of MIA (Emergency Sector) as reported by Dan, and in what capacity this officer attacked the journalist, i.e. how it is possible that he was hired as bodyguard and what MIA intends to do about it.