Last year, Montenegro did not make progress in resolving cases of attacks on journalists, said the president of the Trade Union of Media of Montenegro (SMCG), Marijana Camovic Velickovic, adding that 28 attacks were recorded in that period, which is a record since 2016.
Camovic Velickovic said that at the presentation of the research “Indicators of the level of media freedoms and journalists’ safety in 2021”.
She stated that the identical research was done in Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania, Kosovo, North Macedonia and Croatia, and that it is done by partner organizations from the region, which together form the Safe journalist network.
Camovic Velickovic said that the changes on the political scene also affected the media, which had been polarized before.
“Thus, the influence of the media from Serbia has increased, in the sense that several important media houses have changed owners, and some are in negotiations with businessmen from Serbia,” said Camovic Velickovic.
She pointed out that, when these negotiations are over, except for the Public Service, all leading media in the country will be owned by people and companies from Serbia.
As she stated, the application of the amended Law on Media began last year, but according to the interpretations of the relevant ministry, it did not refer to the announcement of data on the amount of advertising in the media.
“Transparency in advertising has not been established and there are no visible progress when it comes to responsible spending of state bodies’ money on advertising,” said Camovic Velickovic.
Camović Velickovic added that, in order to suppress the consequences of the pandemic on the media sector, the state helped the largest media several times last year.
She pointed out that the research showed that the media operated positively in 2020 and made a total profit of nearly 2.7 million euros.
“According to the Revenue and Customs Administration, total revenues were close to EUR 41.8 million, and expenditures were almost EUR 39.1 million, and 1,806 people worked in them,” said Camovic Velickovic, adding that this was an increase of 400 employees compared to National Statistics Register Monstat.
Camovic Velickovic said that more than 200 media are active in the small Montenegrin market and that most of them are portals.
She pointed out that the number of lawsuits against the media for violating personal rights remains high and that, only last year, 54 cases were active before Montenegrin courts.
“The most frequent prosecutors were journalists and other media, in 26 cases, citizens with 22 requests, while the rest of prosecutors were officials and politicians who submitted six requests,” said Camovic Velickovic.
Camovic Velickovic said that the SMCG’s analysis of ten years of case law showed that private print media were most often sued, while the Public Service had one lawsuit in that period.
“During the last year, 28 cases of attacks and threats were registered in the SMCG base, and that is a record from 2016,” she said.
She pointed out that the competent prosecutor qualified ten events as a criminal offense prosecuted ex officio, eight events were clarified and the perpetrators were prosecuted, while two cases were not clarified.
Camovic Velickovic pointed out that misdemeanor proceedings were initiated against the perpetrator in five events, while in four cases the prosecutor assessed that there were no elements of a criminal offense prosecuted ex officio.
“There has been no progress in the cases of attacks on journalists during the past year,” said Camovic Velickovic.
SMCG researcher Bojana Konatar said that working conditions in the media did not change for the better last year.
Konatar added that they registered the entire hierarchy of influence on journalists, while it is still shown that editors and the media have the greatest influence on their work.
She said that they put a special focus on women in journalism this year and that it is not known how many female journalists there are in the Montenegrin media.
That, as she added, is not strange, when there is no data on the number of media workers in Montenegro.
Konatar said that research shows that female journalists make up the majority of newsrooms in Montenegro, that they are increasingly in editorial positions, but that they are generally not in managerial positions.
She pointed out that there were no pressures on journalists based on gender.
“In our research, journalists most often say that it was difficult for them to work, especially during the pandemic, when they worked from home, so they had to balance between family and work,” said Konatar.
Konatar added that there are a number of problems shared by the entire media community, and it is difficult to follow that sector, because it is completely unregulated.
As she said, the research they did last year showed that only every fourth journalist receives a salary between 500 and 600 EUR net.
“The effects of the ‘Europe now’ program on the media will be interesting to follow. We will see if the salaries of journalists are now at the average state level,” Konatar said.
Konatar pointed out that it is devastating that 44 percent of the respondents, in addition to journalism, also do some other paid work.
“Our research has shown that journalists are not paid for work during the holidays, for overtime work and that they often get a day off instead of compensation,” said Konatar.
As she stated, each newsroom has a list of desirable interlocutors, and there are topics that are not written about.
“The research showed that, although journalists are witnessing great freedom in their work, the situation they are facing indicates pressures and problems. Almost every other journalist had to censor their content at some point, last year,” said Konatar.
Konatar said that one of the recommendations of the SMCG concerning the entire country and the system is that the adoption of the new Law on Electronic Media is especially urgent, in order to improve financial stability and enable editorial independence of local public broadcasters.
According to her, that would lead to a much better status of media employees.
“It is necessary to follow the changes that are happening in the Public Service, not only through the change of the information program, but also through the entire events and actions of the new structures within RTCG,” said Konatar.
She added that the state and the relevant ministry should be asked to check the manner of spending state money, which was paid to the media on several grounds during the last year, because there was no visible progress in any segment.
As she stated, it is necessary to make additional efforts to start social dialogue at all levels, as well as to intensify the training of police officers and prosecutors, because they are not sufficiently educated regarding the protection of freedom of expression and journalists.
(Source: Mina Agency)