Woman journalist attacked for a second time
On 25th May 2022, Montenegro’s Ministry of Justice said that the registration of a second Jewish community, the Religious Community of Jews, took place in accordance with the Freedom of Religion Law and did not violate the Act on Mutual Relations. This comes after the registration was contested by the Jewish Community in Montenegro, who accused the government of failing to obtain its consent and violating the Act which recognises Judaism as the fourth official religion of Montenegro. But the ministry responded that the Freedom of Religion law has a higher legal force.
On 8th June 2022, Montenegrin NGO LGBT Forum Progress sued the state of Montenegro in a local court for alleged discrimination against same-sex couples who married abroad, after officials failed to make legal changes to allow their registration. While the existing Law on Same-Sex Partnerships allows their registration, legislative harmonisation between State institutions is lacking.
On 15th June 2022, 17 NGOs sent an appeal to the President of the Parliament of Montenegro, Danijela Đurović, to put the ratification of Protocol 16 to the European Convention for Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms Proposal on the agenda of the Government of Montenegro as soon as possible. This would enable the highest national courts in Montenegro to seek advisory opinions from the European Court of Human Rights “on matters of principle concerning the interpretation or application of the rights and freedoms defined in the Convention or its Protocols” in pending cases.
- During this reporting period, protests by former employees of the former airline company Montenegro Airlines (MA) continued as they ask the government to fulfil the promises it had made to them. They also attempted to block the entrance to the Airport of Podgorica several times.
- On 2nd June 2022, the citizens of Nikšić protested against the removal of the Montenegrin flag from a municipal building by order of the Secretariat for Inspection Affairs, which found that it was placed contrary to the Law on the Selection, Use and Public Display of National Symbols.
- On 9th June 2022, the Council of Parents of the "Vladimir Nazor" primary school staged a protest in front of the Government building to express dissatisfaction with the unfulfilled announcements of the authorities, particularly their failure to meet deadlines for the construction of a new school building, after it was demolished in April 2022.
Reports related to media legislation
In May 2022, an informal document by the European Commission on the situation of Chapters 23 and 24 for Montenegro praised the amendments to the Criminal Code which aim to provide better criminal-legal protection of media workers. However, it also cautioned that old cases of attacks on journalists have not yet been solved.
According to the “Indicators on the Level of Media Freedom and Journalists’ Safety 2021” report, published by safejournalists.net on 13th May 2022, many of the amendments made to the laws concerning media freedom in previous years have not yet been implemented, for example, the introduction of order in advertising in the media with state money. The lack of progress in media reform has also been confirmed by the Freedom House 2022 Nations in Transit Report.
Women journalists under threat
According to the Coalition For Women In Journalism (CFWIJ) 2021 Annual Press
Freedom Report, published in June 2022, 2021 saw a global increase in major violations against women journalists by 16 per cent in comparison to the previous year. In Montenegro, three cases of threats and attacks against female journalists were reported throughout the year. In June 2022, the Trade Union of Media of Montenegro (TUMM) reported that of the 27 recorded cases of incidents and attacks on journalists in 2021, only 10 went to court. In 11 cases the targets of the attacks were women or teams of which women were a part. Separately, related to gendered harassment, an analysis published by Balkan Insight on 11th May 2022 highlighted how women in politics face sexism and online harassment in Montenegro, which has led to calls for stronger legislation and harsher penalties for perpetrators.
Developments related to journalists
On 13th June 2022, the Council of the Supreme Court of Montenegro decided to reopen the case against investigative journalist Jovo Martinovic, at his request. This comes after Martinovic was convicted in the Podgorica High Court of drug trafficking, and sentenced to 12 months in prison. Martinovic claims that he had made contacts with alleged drug traffickers only as part of his legitimate reporting work and that such a decision proved the capture of the Montenegrin judiciary. The 2021 European Commission’s report on Montenegro stated that the conviction of Martinovic raises concerns about reporters’ ability to perform their duties professionally and without fear of legal repercussions in the country.
On 17th June 2022, Vijesti journalist Jadranka Ćetković was verbally and physically attacked while covering a trial on crimes related to the production and sale of drugs. One of the defendants started running toward her while insulting her for trying to film one of the other defendants and his lawyer. The man was arrested after she filed a complaint and Montenegro’s Minister of Culture, Maša Vlaović, called for the immediate prosecution of the perpetrators of the incident. Ćetković was previously attacked while covering another trial in April.
On 17th June 2022, Montenegrin Prime Minister Dritan Abazovic said that the government would request help from foreign experts to solve the murder of editor Dusko Jovanovic. Jovanovic, editor-in-chief and owner of the daily newspaper Dan, was shot dead 18 years ago while leaving his office in Podgorica. He was well known for his opposition to the then government and had received death threats. In 2009, a former karate champion, Damir Mandic, was sentenced to 30 years for the killing, but the verdict was overturned in 2014, with a new trial which ended in 2016 with a 19-year sentence. Jovanovic’s family and their lawyers are convinced that Mandic did not act alone and that the circumstances of the murder have never been fully clarified.