Media of Montenegro
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The media of Montenegro refers to mass media outlets based in Montenegro. Television, magazines, and newspapers are all operated by both state-owned and for-profit corporations which depend on advertising, subscription, and other sales-related revenues. The Constitution of Montenegro guarantees freedom of speech. As a country in transition, Montenegro's media system is under transformation.
- 1 History
- 2 Legislative framework
- 3 Media environment
- 4 Media outlets
- 5 Censorship and media freedom
- 6 See also
- 7 References
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The first radio station in the Balkans and South-East Europe was established in Montenegro with the opening of a transmitter situated on the hill of Volujica near Bar by Knjaz Nikola I Petrović-Njegoš on 3 August 1904. Radio Cetinje commenced broadcasts on 27 November 1944 and in 1949, Radio Titograd was formed. In 1990 it changed its name to Radio Crna Gora.
In 1957, the first TV antenna was placed on Mount Lovćen. It was able to receive pictures from Italy. RTV Titograd was established in 1963 to produce original television programmes and later became RTCG. The first broadcast by TVCG in Belgrade was a news program in 1964.
The legal framework of Montenegro is deemed well structured and with a formally quite high level of media protection.:19 The constitution and law provide for freedom of speech and press. Restrictions are justified only to protect the rights of others to dignity, reputation and honour, or on grounds of public morality and national security. The law criminalizes inciting hatred and intolerance on national, racial, and religious grounds, and there have been prosecutions on these grounds. In November 2014, violation of hate speech laws was turned into a cause of possible media distribution ban.
Other relevant laws with regard to media freedom and freedom of the press in Montenegro include the Law on the Public Broadcasting Services of Montenegro, the Law on Media, the Law on Electronic Media and the Law on Access to Information. Moreover, the Electoral Law stipulates the obligation on commercial media as well as on the Radio Television of Montenegro to guarantee equal visibility to all candidates. Their implementation, though, remains inconsistent.:19
Publications can be established without approval and are only subject to registration with the authorities. Broadcasters need to acquire a license.:19 Individuals can criticize the government publicly or privately without reprisal. Following the repeal of the criminal libel law in 2011, parliament enacted a law on amnesty to pardon persons convicted of defamation and insult. Yet, there remains a backlog of cases. The right to reply and the right to a correction; censorship is forbidden. Institutions must guarantee the citizens' right to access to information.:19
The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary interference with privacy, family, home, or correspondence without court approval or legal necessity, and prohibit police from searching a residence or conducting undercover or monitoring operations without a warrant. The government generally respects the prohibitions relating to physical and property searches, but has been less compliant regarding digital privacy.
The law requires the National Security Agency to obtain court authorization for wiretaps, but authorities reportedly use wiretapping and surveillance inappropriately against opposition parties, the international community, NGOs, and other groups without appropriate legal authority. The NGO Alternativa stated that during 2011, the ANB performed secret surveillance and data collection against 113 persons. NGOs claimed that police and the state prosecutor’s office illegally monitor citizens' electronic communications and fail to account for how many people or Internet addresses they monitor.
The Constitution guarantees the right to access to information and the 2005 Freedom of Information Law entitles journalists and citizens to request public information disclosure. Yet, and the executive remains wary of disclosing information about alleged corruption cases, and several cases have been registered in which authories did not respect the deadline defined in the law.:19 The media regulators lack financial independence and monitoring capacity.
The Agency for Electronic Media (AEM) and the Agency for Electronic Communications and Postal Affairs (EKIP) are the two regulatory bodies, entitled with broad tasks over the sector. Although defined as independent regulatory bodies, both entities have been exposed to the accusation of not being entirely independent, a condition resulting from the indebt interference exerted by politicians over these two bodies.:19
Status and self-regulation of journalists
No legal definition of journalist is provided by Montenegrin law. Any person producing information for the media is deemed a journalist, whether on a contract or freelancing. Job security for journalists is lacking, and part of their salaries are often transferred by editors under-the-table to avoid accounting and taxes. Average gross salaries were around 500 euros per month (the net average wage being €475/m) and can get as low as 200 euros per month for entry-levels.
Attacks on journalists and the media are also frequent, and impunity is a concern. No responsible has been found for the 2003 murder of Duško Jovanović, former Editor-in-Chief of the daily Dan. Tufik Softic, journalist for Vijesti and Monitor was injured by an explosive device activated in front of his house in August 2013.:22
The 2002 Journalists’ Code of Ethics is outdated, particularly with regards to online contents.:22 The establishment of a self-regulation framework has long stalled. In March 2012, representatives of 19 print and electronic media outlets formed a media council for self-regulation. However, some of the most influential media declined to join what they described as an excessively pro-government group. They indicated that they would form a separate self-regulatory mechanism. A group of small local media outlets from the northern region of the country established their own self-regulation council.
Only three self-regulatory bodies in the country are counted as active: the Media Self-Regulation Council, the Self-regulatory Local Press Council and the TV Vijesti Ombudsman, established in 2013. The first of them is tasked with publishing reports and decising on appeals. It also proposes itselfs as a mediator between media and dissatisfied customers even when the concerned media are not among its members (although this goes against the principle of self-regulation). Observers have detected instances of political bias in its work.:22
Professionalism among journalists is not widespread. Ethics principles are often breached, e.g. in terms of presumption of innocence, trial outcomes, misleading titles, and discredit of competitors. Media reports are rarely balanced.:22
Journalists are entitled to the protection of their sources, although this is not recognised by the Code of Journalists’ Ethics. Journalists' privilege is also often not respected by public authorities. The chief editor of Dan was asked in 2012 by the state prosecutor to reveal his sources on possible instances of corruption in the previously state-owned telecom company, during a trial for revelation of state secrets.:23
Montenegro has a diverse media environment for a small country, with around 24 television stations, 54 radio stations, 5 daily print outlets, 3 weeklies, and 30 monthlies.
Public service broadcaster
The public broadcasting organization in Montenegro is the state-owned Radio and Television of Montenegro (RTCG/РТЦГ), comprising Radio Montenegro and Montenegro Television. RTCG is a full member of the European Broadcasting Union since the country's independence in 2006. RTCG is regulated by the Law on Public Radio-Diffusion Services, requiring it to serve the interests of all Montenegro citizen, regardless of their political, religious, culture, racial or gender affiliation.:20
RTCG is managed by a Council of 9 members, who are experts proposed by civil society organisations and appointed by the Parliament by simple majority. The RTCG Council appoints the Director General of the RTCG and advocates in the public interest. Although its nomination procedure should ensure the independence of the Council, the fact that some of the nominating organisations receive state funding has led the OSCE and the Council of Europe to express concern about their lack of independence from the government coalition.
RTCG is widely seen as dependent from the Government, particularly after allegedly politically motivated dismissals of journalists in 2011. RTCG does not pay a broadcasting licence fee and is financed directly from the State budget (1,2% of the budget) as well as from advertising revenues (for a limited airtime) and sales reevenues. Its finances have been in trouble lately, and it edged bankruptcy in 2012, further endangering its independence credentials.:20 RTCG's financial viability is often at risk and relies heavily on the government as its primary source of funding. RTCG's debt stock (€2.4 million) was covered by the state budget in 2014.
Electronic media should inform the national regulator (AEM) of their ownership structure. Yet, no requirement are present of disclosure to the public, which is thus often unaware of real ownership structures. Information on ownership of foreign-based entities operating Montenegrin media is also not provided.:21
Media in Montenegro are funded by advertising revenues, the sale of own productions and other sources. State aid funds may be distributed, in accordance to the Law on the Media, for the production of educational, cultural, or minority media. The government-appointed Commission for the Control of State Aid found no irregolarities in the distribution of such subsidies in 2012.:21
State advertising is distributed without clear criteria and this raises concerns. In 2012, 89% of the funds for press advertisement by Ministries went to the daily Pobjeda, majority owned by the state. The public procurement law is not properly applied to advertisement services, and data are not available on the official web-portal.:21
The financial crisis has hit hard on Montenegrin media, with deteriorating economic viability of private media outlets. IN TV, previously hosted the most watched news programme, closed down in 2012. Its journalists are still in court for recovering due payments. Other media are still allowed to work by the national regulator AEM, notwithstanding their debt situation, raising concerns on favoritism and political pressures. The least-developed North was particularly affected by the effects of the crisis on the media industry.:21
A high number of media in a small market such as Montenegro's endanger their viability and sustainability. This is particularly true for electronic media, who have higher production costs and who have to pay a broadcasting fee.  Dire financial conditions are deemed conducive to self-censorship.:21
The process of privatisation of state-owned and local administration-owned media, launched in 2003, is proceeding slowly. The national daily Pobjeda had to be privatised by 2014 but it remained mainly state-owned for lack of interested investors.:21 A minority share of the newspaper was also allegedly linked to Darko Šarić's mafia gang. Foreign-owned media are deemed more critical of the government, contributing to the pluralism of the media panorama in Montenegro. Yet, the market has remained rather unattractive to foreign investors. The government is deemed particularly interfering in the national broadcaster RTCG, but also private Pink M TV has been accused of serving the ruling coalition's interests.:21
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The print press in Montenegro uses both Latin and Cyrillic alphabets, and both Serbian and Montenegrin languages. Dailies in Montenegro include Blic Montenegro (in Latin Serbian), Dnevne Novine (in Latin Montenegrin), Dan (in Cyrillic Serbian, Pobjeda (in Latin Montenegrin) and Vijesti (in Latin Montenegrin). Periodicals include Monitor (weekly in Latin Montenegrin) and Magazin BIT (monthly in Latin Montenegrin). Local and minority newspapers include Pljevaljske Novine (Pljevlja) and Koha Javore (Podgorica, in Albanian). PCnen (Prve crnogorske elektronske novine) is the main online media. The Montenegrin news agency is the Montenegrin News Agency (MINA).
The pro-governmental newspaper Pobjeda was fully privatized in November 2014, in accordance with a 2002 law requiring the state to sell its shares, after it went bankrupt in July 2014 despite heavy state subsidies through advertising. The new owner, Media Nea, by the Greek businessman Petros Stathis, planned to merge it with its other newspaper Dnevne Novine, laying off half of the staff and establishing a new editorial board.
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Montenegro hosts 14 local public radio stations and more than 40 private radio stations. The state-funded national radio-TV broadcaster operates 2 radio networks: Radio Crne Gore and Radio 98; Other radio stations with nationwide coverage are Atlas Radio, Montena Radio, ProFM, Radio Antena M Radio Crne Gore, Radio Svetigora, and Russkoye Radio (Russian Radio).
Montenegro hosts 4 public and some 20 private TV stations and 1 satellite TV channel. Other privately owned television broadcast stations mostly cover the major cities in Montenegro.
The state-funded national radio-TV broadcaster Radio Television of Montenegro (RTCG) operates 2 terrestrial TV networks: TVCG 1 for news and domestic production and TVCG 2 for sport and entertainment. TVCG Sat is broadcast to Australia and New Zealand via satellite. Government opponents claim that, despite some improvement, RTCG is still controlled by the ruling political structures and that the public broadcaster clearly favors the government in its programming and reporting.
Local TV channels include RTV APR (Rožaje), RTV Nikšić (Nikšić), TV Budva (Budva), RTV Panorama (Pljevlja), TV Teuta (Ulcinj, with coverage in Bar, Podgorica too) and TV BOiN (Tuzi, covering Ulcinj and Podgorica too).
Considering its population of about 600,000 people, Montenegro has produced a number of outstanding film directors and actors including Dušan Vukotić, the first Yugoslav Oscar winner (for the short animated film category in 1961), Veljko Bulajić, and Živko Nikolić.
Mobile telephony has boomed, with 1.1 million lines, provided by three GSM operators: Telenor Montenegro (owned by Telenor), T-Mobile Montenegro (owned by Crnogorski Telekom) and m:tel (owned by Telekom Srbija). 3G services were introduced in 2007. At 178% Montenegro had in 2013 the second highest mobile cellular phone penetration rate in Europe, behind only Russia, and ranked 9th world-wide.
There are no government restrictions on access to the Internet. Until ordered to cease doing so in March 2011, one of the country’s principal Internet service providers gave police direct access to all forms of communications carried on its servers. It is unknown whether authorities made use of this access to monitor e-mail or Internet Web sites or chat rooms. There is no evidence that the government collects or discloses personally identifiable information about individuals based on the individual's peaceful expression of political, religious, or ideological opinion or belief.
Censorship and media freedom
In 2015, Freedom House scored Montenegro as "partly free", with an overall score of 39. The organisation recorded the persistence of hostile official rhetoric and serious physical attacks against journalists, whose investigations and prosecutions only rarely led to convictions.
The media panorama is politically polarized, with open affiliations of media groups with political parties and business groups. Reporting often lacks objectivity and professionalism, and most journalism is tabloid-style.
The financial situation of the media is dire. Journalists are underpaid and pushed to biased coverage. The crisis has taken its toll, with some 500 journalists laid off since 2011 according to the media unions.
Attacks and threats against journalists
Threats and assaults against journalists, both verbal and physical, are reported constantly and are a source of self-censorship. Many cases remain open, and convictions are the exception. A new governmental commission was set up in 2012 (with a one-year, renewable mandate) to supervise investigations on violent crimes against journalists. It was tasked to investigate 14 high profile cases between 2004 and 2014,including: :24
- The 2004 murder of Dusko Jovanović, publisher and editor of Dan, was reopened in February 2014.
- A 2013 bomb attack against the house of the Vijesti journalist Tufik Softic
- The December 2013 explosion in front of Vijesti’s premises saw two suspects indicted in July 2014. Previous attacks, including four Vijesti cars set on fire in July 2011, August 2011, and February 2014, remain unsolved.
Severa other high-profile cases of attacks and threats against journalists have happened in the last years.
- Olivera Lakic was physically attacked on 7 March 2012; the perpetrator was convicted to nine months for violent assault, but his motives were not investigated. Lakic had been subject to several threats after having investigated on illegale cigarette manufacturing in Mojkovac.:25
- In December 2013 the public TV journalist Darko Ivanovic was threatened and got his car damaged after he run a story on privatisations. The authorities assigned him a three-months protection and charged a man, but only for robbery. The man later admitted to have been given €5 and a hamburger by the police to admit to the crime. The charges were later dropped.:26–27
- In January 2014 Lidija Nikčević, reporter for Dan, was beaten with a baseball bat in Niksic. In December 2014, five persons were sentence to terms from 11 to 15 months for the attack.:27
- On 13 February 2014, for the firth time, a car owned by Vijesti was set on fire in Podgorica.
The local NGO Human Rights Action (HRA) recorded 20 cases of attacks and harassment against Montenegrin journalists between 2010 and early 2014, all of them reported to the police. HRA reported that prosecutors would, as a rule, indict perpetrators for lesser crimes, and that judges would sentence them for the minimum terms, besides failing to investigate their motives.:25
The European Commission's 2014 Progress Report on Montenegro contains words of concern over the possibility that old and unsolved cases of violence against journalists might soon exceed the statute of limitations. It also called upon the executive to refrain from declarations that “may be understood as intimidation” - such as the March 2014 statement by Đukanović that he would “deal with all kinds of mafia, including the media mafia.”
OSCE's Media Freedom representative Dunja Mijatovic noted how the failure to investigate attacks against journalists in Montenegro "sends a message of impunity".:26 According to HRW, the lack of progress in the investigation of old cases "helps maintain an environment in which journalists are yet to feel confident that authorities will respond forcefully to crimes committed against media workers".:28
Contents are influenced by business and political interests of media owners. Those media that are critical of the government do not receive advertising placement from state ministries and state-owned organisations. Independent journalists still face pressures from business leaders and government officials, who often behave with blatant favoritism towards the supportive media outlets. Journalists investigating corruption are often accused by officials to "seek to harm the state".
State aids and advertisement funding are the easiest ways for government to exert pressure on the media. The 2013 EU Progress Report on Montenegro noted that their management was unlawful and that it could endanger media competition. In 2013 91% of all government advertising was allocated to the government-owned Pobjeda daily.:40
Civil defamation lawsuits
Newspapers remain under the threat of civil damages cases. The independent media Vijesti, Dan and Monitor have been sued and fined thousands of euros for "insulting" the Prime Minister Milo Đukanović and his family. The justice system remains inadequately prepared to deal with media-related cases, since proceedings are slow, investigations inadequate, and judges untrained.
Montenegrin law make the media liable for the knowing or reckless publication of untrue facts. Journalists have reported the use of civil defamation by authorities for political interference purposes.:48
- The weekly Monitor received six pending lawsuits, including one by the PM's sister, Ana Kolarevic, after they investigated her role in the privatisation of the TLC company. Kolarevic sued Monitor, Dan and Vijesti for 100,000 euros (usual lawsuits are for 10,000). The first instance court acquitted Monitor but the appeal court sent the case back for re-trial.:48
- Opposition newspaper Dan is "struggling with lawsuits" according to its chief editor, reporting to have paid more than 200,000 euros, mostly to Đukanović and his circle, including Ana Kolarevic. At the end of 2012 Dan had 2 million euros in lawsuits pending, including a 1 million euro lawsuit by Đukanović from 2007.:48
Monitor, Dan and Vijesti appear to be under a "constant barrage of criticism" from pro-governmental media, according to HRW. The state-owned Pobjeda, instead, appeas to push the governmental line and to discredit critics - up to regularly calling the editor of Monitor "a prostitute". Darko Ivanovic, from the public TV, was smeared by tabloids and pro-governmental media, including TV Pink, after revealing how the police had tried to inculpate a man for the attack on his car: "it's a whole system of parallel realities set up to discredit journalists.:58–59
Montenegro's prime minister Milo Đukanović has a track record of attacking critical journalists and media outlets, smearing them as a "media mafia", claiming they are linked to organised crime, and calling them "rats", "monsters", "enemies of the state".:39
In November 2013 a regional journalism conference inaugurated by Đukanović included an exhibition displaying the front pages of three Montenegro dailies as examples of "bad" journalism, presenting them as enemies of the state undermining the rule of law by manipulating public opinion in the country. A Bosnian journalist was threatened and smeared by pro-governmental Montenegrin media after she published a critical article about the conference, and was later harassed in person once she returned in Bosnia too.:39–40
- Elda Brogi, Alina Dobreva, and Pier Luigi Parcu, "Freedom of Media in the Western Balkans", study for the European Parliament's Subcommittee on Human Rights, October 2014, EXPO/B/DROI/2013/16
- "Montenegro", Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2012, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State, 22 March 2013. Retrieved 30 January 2014.
- Freedom House, Freedom of the Press Report - Montenegro 2015
- Law on the Public Broadcasting Services of Montenegro
- IREX (2013), Europe & Eurasia. Media Sustainability Index 2013: Montenegro. Podgoritsa.
- Vukovic, Dragoljub Duško (2013), Monitoring of Journalistic Self-Regulatory Bodies in Montenegro - First Report (September 2012 – March 2013). Podgorica: HRA (Human Right Action) Montenegro.
- OSCE, PACE (2013), Montenegro, Presidential Election, 7 April 2013: Statement of Preliminary Findings and Conclusions. Podgorica: OSCE, PACE.
- AIM and Methodology of the Research (2012), Citizens’ Views on Media Freedoms in Montenegro. Report.
- Dojcinovic, Stevan (2011), Šaricevi Poslovi Sa Medijima. CINS Centar za Istrazivacko Novinarstvo Srbije.
- Frederick Bernard Singleton (1985). A short history of the Yugoslav peoples. Cambridge University Press. pp. 30–. ISBN 978-0-521-27485-2. Retrieved 24 July 2011.
- "Communications: Montenegro", World Factbook, U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, 15 January 2014. Retrieved 30 January 2014.
- "Russia, Montenegro top for mobile penetration in Europe", Telecom Paper, 10 September 2013. Retrieved 30 January 2014.
- Calculated using penetration rate and population data from "Countries and Areas Ranked by Population: 2012", Population data, International Programs, U.S. Census Bureau, retrieved 26 June 2013
- "Percentage of Individuals using the Internet 2000-2012", International Telecommunications Union (Geneva), June 2013, retrieved 22 June 2013
- Human Rights Watch, "A Difficult Profession. Media Freedom Under Attack in the Western Balkans". July 2015, 978-1-6231-32576
- Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, The Protection of media freedom in Europe.Background report prepared by Mr William Horsley, special representative for media freedom of the Association of European Journalists
- Human Rights Action, Prosecution of attacks on journalists in Montenegro, 2014
- Art. 20 of the 2002 Media Law, art. 205 and 206 of the Montenegrin Civil Code