Podgorica/Geneva - 17 June 2013
The Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Mr. Frank La Rue called for effective accountability in all cases of violence against journalists, in his preliminary report of the five-day visit to Montenegro. “Insecurity will prevail as long as cases of attack against journalists and media property remain unresolved. The impunity of well-known cases of violence against journalists is unacceptable.”
While recognizing that steps were taken to respond to recent episodes of violence, Mr. La Rue underlined the need to ensure the effective conclusion to all outstanding cases, while preventing the recurrence of such lapses. “Montenegro should establish a special mechanism to coordinate State efforts to protect journalists, and the rapid investigation of offences. Such a mechanism must include not only representatives of the police and justice systems, but also representatives of the media and human rights organizations.”
According to Mr. La Rue, who presented his findings after a five days visit to the country, the press plays a vital role for the consolidation of democracy. “A critical and independent press, that is capable of investigating and denouncing abuses and corruption plays a central role informing the public and provoking debate.”
“At the same time that the State must ensure the complete independence of the media, the media itself is responsible for maintaining high standards of professionalism,” said La Rue. “The Montenegrin media can, and must, do more to ensure better standards of quality in journalism.”
The Special Rapporteur urged the media to ensure high professional and ethical standards through voluntary self-regulation.. “I was surprised by the extreme polarization among media representatives. It is very unfortunate that efforts to establish a single self-regulatory body have so far produced very limited results. Openness to self-evaluation and criticism are essential components of professionalism and maturity for any form of media.”
Mr. La Rue commended Montenegro for its recent work in improving its national legal framework for freedom of expression. “The decriminalization of defamation was crucial for aligning national laws to international standards. The improvements to the laws on Public Broadcasting Services, Electronic Media and Access to Information represent important additional steps. Attention must now be paid to ensure they are fully implemented into practice by authorities and the justice system.”
During his visit to the country, Mr. La Rue met with senior Government officials, including the Prime Minister, members of judiciary and legislative bodies, representatives of civil society, lawyers, human rights defenders, and journalists. He will present his findings and recommendations in a report to the Human Rights Council in June 2014.