On World Press Freedom Day, journalists call for accountability and better protections
FREEDOM OF PEACEFUL ASSEMBLY
On 18th April in Podgorica, a group of artists protested in front of the seat of the Montenegrin government demanding an increase in funding for the arts. They called for greater recognition and support for the arts sector and stressed the importance of preserving and promoting cultural expression. The aim of the protest was to draw attention to the needs of artists and to advocate for the value of art in society. On the same day, environmentalists staged a protest against the construction of the Komarnica hydroelectric power plant. They expressed their concern about the possible ecological impact on the Komarnica River and the surrounding area and stressed the importance of protecting the natural environment.
On 21st April, a group of citizens in Budva organised a demonstration demanding the release of Milo Božović, the imprisoned mayor of the city. The demonstrators demand that Božović be released from custody while proceedings are ongoing so as not to hinder the work of the local administration. Božović was arrested on charges of involvement in a criminal organisation related to cocaine smuggling.
On 23rd April, citizens gathered in Radanovići to express their protest against the construction of the Jaz-Tivat boulevard and the laying of a gas pipeline through the Grbalj region. The protests highlighted the ongoing conflicts between economic development and environmental protection in the country.
On 24th April, the Radio Television of Montenegro (RTCG) workers' union held a warning strike in front of the media house. Union President Jadranka Drobnjak announced that they are striking because their proposals for salary increase coefficients have not been accepted even after more than four months. RTCG executive director Boris Raonić accused the protest of being politically motivated.
FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION
A panel discussion in April 2023, organised by the Balkan Investigative Research Network (BIRN) showed that access to information in the Balkans remains largely theoretical, despite the existence of legal provisions guaranteeing the right on paper. Panellists discussed the challenges journalists and citizens face in accessing public information, including bureaucratic hurdles, lack of transparency and limited enforcement mechanisms. They stressed the need for greater accountability and implementation of laws to ensure true freedom of information and promote transparency in the region.
On the occasion of 3rd May, World Press Freedom Day, journalists from the Balkans and Central Europe expressed their concerns about their professional safety. The journalists pointed to the threats they face, including physical attacks, online harassment and political pressure, which affect their ability to report freely and independently. They called for stronger measures to protect journalists and ensure their safety and stressed the importance of press freedom for democracy and the public's right to information.
During the reporting period, the Trade Union of Media of Montenegro (TUMM) noted several violations, such as undue pressure by an official on journalist Draško Đuranović on 25th April and aggressive public statements by Prime Minister Abazović to local media Gradska TV on 24th April. The attacks and unfavourable working conditions of journalists and media workers in Montenegro were highlighted at a press conference of TUMM, where it initiated new negotiations on a collective agreement and demanded an increase in journalists’ salaries.
On 8th May, CSO Action for Human Rights strongly condemned the serious threats directed at psychologist and activist Petar Marković because of his style and appearance, stressing the need for tolerance and acceptance of diversity in society. They demand that those responsible for the threats be identified, prosecuted and punished accordingly. In its 2023 Rainbow Map and Rainbow Index, ILGA-Europe criticised countries in the Western Balkans for their treatment of LGBTQI+ rights. Montenegro was the highest-rated country in the region with 61%, but it still has problems with anti-LGBTQI+ and misogynistic political rhetoric.