Freedom House report for 2016 notes a deterioration of press freedom in the country, noting that "the media landscape in Montenegro is heavily polarized along political lines. Journalists critical of Prime Minister Milo Đukanović and his family often find themselves the targets of defamation suits. Ineffective media self-regulation contributes to a widespread lack of professionalism among journalists. Reporters covering sensitive topics risk threats and physical attacks. Media ownership is often difficult to determine."
With comparison to previous years, deterioration is recorded both in the legal environment and in the economic interference. In the first case, negative developments relate in particular to the abuse of legal proceedings to silence media. Although defamation was decriminalized in 2011, the report notes, “the independent dailies Vijesti and Dan and the weekly Monitor have been fined hundreds of thousands of Euros in damages for insulting Đukanović or his family members”. Moreover, resistance by public bodies to provide access to information is a persistent violation. Concern is raised also regarding lack of financial independence for the country’s media regulators.
The existence of political interference on editorial policies is stable but worrying, and it is a major reason for the heavy polarization of the media landscape along political lines, with “media outlets frequently run attack pieces against one another”.
Among the most noteworthy events reported:
Defamation and Libel
- In March 2015, Đukanović’s sister won a defamation suit against a newspaper that published information implicating her in a bribery scheme.
- Amid ongoing concerns about media professionalism, a working group backed by the Council of Europe and Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) adopted a new code of ethics for journalists in November.
- Two journalists were arrested and several more were physically attacked while covering anti-government demonstrations in October.
- Freelance journalist Jovo Martinović was detained in October and accused of involvement with a drug smuggling operation he had been investigating, and was being held without charge at the year’s end.
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