Awarded students article on working conditions in the media

Unresolved cases of attacks on journalists, low incomes of employees in this sector, debatable editorial policies… Media scene in Montenegro, or assome people like to say, media darkness… There are many problems in Montenegrin journalism. We have freed ourselves from the communism policy only to move onto modern methods of censorship which, maybe not openly but strongly, dampens the voices of those we call the guardians of democracy.

This profession used to be considered asexalted, journalists as privileged members of society working in the service of public interest, as those who have the power to present the truth in a credible and fearless manner. Unfortunately, the reality is much different, and these words hang in the air as the goal we are aiming to. And maybe they’ll come true. Perhaps, when we get out of the transition process, democratization will be over, too. Or perhaps the European conventions help us, because, by ratifying them, we have been guaranteed freedom of speech and the right to access information. However, ratification seems paradoxical considering the ratings of relevant international organizations, such as the Reporters Without Borders, which ranked Montenegro in the 103rdpositionbased on the media freedom index. They saw us as a state in which journalists face the violence of criminal groups and the pressures of political establishment. And indeed, they truly describedus in that single sentence. The pen of our journalists writes with the ink of those who dictate the conditions. Advertisers, owners, political potentates… It would be utopian to believe that the Code of Ethics is the only framework.But it also loses a race with the interests of those who have money and power on their side. Of those who adapt the truth to their own benefit. However, this situation is not without consequences, resulting in low level of trust in the media. It seems that not many people are worried about this. It is evident that freedom of expression is only apparent. I use word apparent because, in parallel with that, the security of those who decided to write beyond these limitations is endangered.This is also evidenced by reports of attacks on journalists posted on the website On this regional platform for advocacy of media freedom and security of journalists, 33 attacks on journalists have been recorded since 2016. Most of these attacks have not yet been solved, and some of them seem never to be.

Endangered security is, of course, the biggest problem, but it is not the only one. From a financial point of view, the situation of journalists is poor. According to a survey conducted by the Trade Union of Media of Montenegro, which included 136 journalists and editors, more than a third of respondents receive a salary amounting to EUR 400-500, while every third journalist receives a salary amounting to less than EUR 400. A large number of them do not have employment contracts, not to mention permanent contracts, and the number of those whose salaries are paid late is also significant. Employees in the local public broadcaster Radio Beraneare owed 8 salaries, while employees of the local public broadcaster Radio Television Ulcinjare owed 15 salaries. Despite this situation, Berane’s local authorities seem determined to establish a television station at any cost. I am not against it, just nor the employees in this public broadcaster, however, I think that we should primarily solve the current problems.This is because it seems that, in this situation, the television would only generate new debts.

A burden that was imposed by the digital age goes side by side with these problems. Media employees are working more and more for wages that are getting lower. One person is hired today for a job for which four people used to be hired in the past. A bit like Fordism, isn’t it? Perhaps, Ford indeed imagined us as workers on the conveyor belt, with minimal labour costs, only instead of a conveyor belt we have editorial staff.

I have been an idealist regarding this profession, and I am still. However, I cannot agree that my word must be adapted to those who dictate conditions. Journalists are and will always be a window into the world, and mediafreedom is the basis of democracy. We cannot allow no voice to be silenced. Montenegrin society must not afford itselfthis luxury. Perhaps the change is difficult to be seen from this point of view but is not impossible, and it will not come by itself. Problems will not disappear and be resolved by waiting. Every Montenegrin journalist and journalism studenthas to clear the way to a free word and prevent the emergence of this constantly emphasized media darkness.

Zeljka Zvicer

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