The right to a fair trial: Improving reporting on criminal proceedings in Montenegro

BUDVA – “Cooperation between the media and judiciary in Montenegro is good, but there is always room for improvement. A step towards its further strengthening is the organization of a two-day seminar titled ‘The right to a fair trial and the role of the media in the application of the European Convention on Human Rights and the new Criminal Procedure Code’,” said Ms. Branka Lakočević, Deputy Minister of Justice of Montenegro at the opening of a seminar that gathered some 35 representatives of the national print and electronic media, judiciary and other national institutions. Together with national and international experts in this field they discussed ways to advance their cooperation in the process of reporting on criminal cases that are prosecuted and adjudicated by the Montenegrin judicial bodies, especially when it comes to corruption and organized crime cases. The seminar was organized by the Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (CEDEM), with the support from the UNDP Montenegro, the Advice on Individual Rights in Europe (AIRE) Centre of London and the Judicial Training Centre of Montenegro.
Mr. Nenad Koprivica, Executive Director of CEDEM said that the aim of the seminar was to strengthen the capacities of the judiciary to provide information on criminal proceedings, as well as the capacities of the media to report on criminal proceedings, with special attention to criminal proceedings related to corruption and organized crime. “Participants will learn about new institutes of criminal law that were introduced into the Montenegrin legislation by the amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code, with special attention paid to international standards of criminal justice and relevant jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights,” Mr. Koprivica said. He also stated that the emphasis would be put on the role of the media in protecting the right to a fair and public trial and the presumption of innocence.

Ms. Nuala Mole, Executive Director of the AIRE Centre from London shared with participants her extensive experience in promoting the awareness of the European law rights and assistance to marginalized individuals by taking their cases to the European Court of Human Rights. “It is of great significance that we see here today at the same table representatives of the media, judicial institutions and non-governmental organizations who will exchange their experiences on issues of importance for the promotion of cooperation between these stakeholders, as well as successful implementation of judicial reform,” Ms. Mole said. She spoke on pretrial detention and investigation in terms of the European Convention on Human Rights, and with particular emphasis on the role of the judiciary and prosecution, with respect to the right to a fair trial and procedural requirements ensuring compliance with the Article 6 and 10 of the European Convention on Human Right as well as with international standards.

Ms. Sanja Bojanic, Democratic Governance Cluster Leader at the UNDP Montenegro said: “Having in mind the fact that the media are to a great extent the source of information that form people’s opinion about the world around them, the importance of quality reporting on criminal proceedings cannot be overemphasized, especially in the context of the right to a fair trial. Therefore, we hope that this gathering will serve as a platform for strengthening the understanding and cooperation between the media, non-governmental sector and judiciary. This would lead to more thorough citizen’s information efforts relating to criminal proceedings, but more importantly – about their rights and freedoms – which is a responsibility of all stakeholders towards the community and a concrete contribution to building a democratic society.”

Ms. Marina Pejović, representative of the Judicial Training Centre (JTC) of Montenegro stressed out the good cooperation between the JTC, CEDEM, UNDP and the AIRE Centre and the importance of participation of representatives of the judiciary in these seminars. “Together with UNDP we first conducted trainings for judicial professionals to familiarize them with new institutes of the Criminal Procedure Code,” said Ms. Pejović and emphasized the importance of inter-sectoral collaboration and exchange of experiences in ensuring the rule of law.

Ms. Branka Lakočević, Deputy Minister of Justice of Montenegro introduced participants to the novelties of the Criminal Procedure Codepresenting the main changes and challenges that the new Montenegrin Criminal Procedure Code would bring: “Our joint aim is to support the media to better understand criminal proceedings and its rules, to understand legal terminology, to know in which phase of the proceeding the information can be released and in which way so that the privacy of the parties would not be jeopardized in the ongoing court procedure, etc..” She also pointed out that all the parties involved in reporting on criminal proceedings need to respect the presumption of innocence, i.e. that everybody is innocent until proven guilty, and that special care needs to be taken when reporting on vulnerable groups, such as juvenile delinquents or victims of crimes.

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UNDP Montenegro provided expert support in drafting the new Criminal Procedure Code, organizing trainings for judicial professionals on new institutes of the Criminal Procedure Code, as well as in promoting the ‘Guide for Journalists through Criminal Proceedings’ that was produced by CEDEM in partnership with the Ministry of Justice ,OSCE and Montenegro Media Institute.

Guide for Journalists through Criminal Proceedings (Vodič za novinare kroz krivični postupak)