Human Rights Action (HRA) calls on the state prosecution of Montenegro to provide an effective investigation of attack on the property of journalist Miroslav Drobnjak, by interrogating the injured party and witnesses and undertaking all other investigative actions urgently. It is also necessary to determine whether the safety of the journalist and his family is threatened and, if yes, to take protective measures.
This year, on 11th of October, the car belonging to the journalist Drobnjak, reporter of the newspaper “Evening News”, burned out in the yard of his family house in Pljevlja.
The court expert, in his report of 20th of October, found vehicle arson, i.e. stated that the fire had been set up intentionally. The police informed Drobnjak about the expert’s findings only 26 days later. No one has been interrogated in this case to date, according to the information of the injured journalist. The competent state prosecutor in Pljevlja failed to come to the crime scene and even did not interrogate the journalist to date.
HRA calls on the State Prosecution to immediately interview Drobnjak, who can provide valuable instructions for the effective direction of the investigation. This especially bearing in mind negative experience of investigating attacks on journalists in Montenegro, of which 2/3 remain unresolved, as well as the particularly negative experience with the investigation of the attack on journalist Tufik Softić, whom the state prosecutor in Berane interviewed for the first time only seven years following the attack.
HRA calls on the competent investigative bodies, primarily the State Prosecutor’s Office as well as the Police, to establish a special protocol for investigating threats and attacks on journalists and their property, to ensure that in all such cases all available investigative actions are urgently undertaken, and to act in each case on the assumption that the attack has been directed against freedom of speech and public information, requiring urgent, independent and professional investigation in an adequate manner in public interest.
International, and particularly European, minimal human rights standards require the state to undertake independent and effective investigation in the case of the attack on a journalist, as well as to apply protective measures when there are indications that safety of journalist may be at risk. An effective investigation is an investigation initiated by the state prosecutor on his/her own initiative – he/she should not wait for the injured party to start the investigation. The investigation should be conducted independently from those who have been alleged to have been involved in the incident. The authorities must collect all relevant evidence and the investigation must been prompt and thorough. There has to be some transparency as well as public scrutiny of the investigation or of its results, so as to secure accountability and maintain public confidence. More on this standard established in the practice of the European Court of Human Rights in HRA Bulletin no. XVIII “Violence against journalists”.