The important anniversary, 150 years of journalism in Montenegro, is celebrated by journalists in our country during the epidemic of the coronavirus, which negatively affected the journalistic profession, although, at the same time, as never before, it showed the great importance of the media in our society. However, the social and material status of media workers, which has generally not improved, is not commensurate with this importance, although many were among the first to be hit by the epidemic, bringing key information to citizens and raising the readership, audience and viewership of the media.
The TUMM survey from October showed that over 86% of online journalists confirms negative impact of corona crises on their work, but around 15% of them said that their salaries were reduced during the epidemic. Only a small number of journalists in all media received adequate satisfaction for their work in the form of salary increases or bonuses, although, according to the TUMM, the state helped almost all Montenegrin media with more than 600 thousand euros due to the epidemic. Therefore TUMM reiterates its call on all media owners who have not done so to adequately reward all employees, especially those who have had to work harder.
Not much has been done in the past year to finally shed light on all the unsolved cases of murders and attacks on journalists. Even after almost 17 years, the killer and those who ordered the murder of the editor-in-chief of “Dana” Dusko Jovanovic are unknown and there is still no legal epilogue for the wounding of journalist Olivera Lakic from May 2018, and in the meantime, according to the Special Prosecutor’s Office, the same criminal group planned a new assassination. All this shows that the competent authorities do not yet understand the importance of protecting journalists, and we expect the new government to put the solution of these issues at the top of the agenda. Last year will be remembered for the verdict by which the investigative journalist Jovo Martinović was sentenced to one year in prison for drug smuggling, despite his claims that he only did his job and investigated the functioning of organized crime. Such a decision is an attack on investigative journalism and media freedom.
One of the major problems remains the worrying financial situation in most local public broadcasters, where employees have been owed salaries for years and accumulated debts for contributions. Although the debt has been reduced in some, we believe that it is necessary to adopt the proposals of the TUMM, which would be included in the new Law on Audio-Visual Media Services, in order to ensure financial sustainability and editorial independence of local public broadcasters.
Last year, amendments to the Law on Media and the Law on National Public Broadcaster Radio-Television of Montenegro were adopted, which brought certain improvements in the form of establishing a Fund for Media Pluralism, but also great concern of the media community due to partial restriction of rights to source protection. TUMM expects that the courts will not abuse the journalist’s right to protect sources, and that the announced state assistance to private media through the Fund will be clearly conditioned by the fact that part of that assistance will be directed at improving the economic situation of employees.
We call on all journalists to fight censorship and self-censorship, which remain a great challenge for Montenegrin journalism. In this regard, they should be aware that, at the suggestion of the TUMM, the new Law on Media includes provisions according to which every journalist in Montenegro has the right to refuse to write a text or article that is contrary to the law and the Journalists’ Code, and that he can’t be punished for that, as well as have the right not to sign their media content if their meaning changes in the process of editorial processing.
Without solving these problems, Montenegrin journalism will not be able to adequately face new challenges in the form of fake news or bad influence of social networks, and society in general. Hoping that these issues will be seriously addressed, TUMM congratulates journalists on the Day of Montenegrin Journalists and 150 years of journalism in our country and invites them to, despite all obvious differences and conflicts, be at least objective in their work and protect their rights in solidarity.
Main board SMCG