An important stepping stone for a national media policy for Montenegro: the JUFREX media sector inquiry

Podgorica 5 AprilAn European Union-funded project implemented by the Council of Europe presented today its findings and recommendations for further reform in Montenegro's media sector. As part of the JUFREX project, a group of independent experts was deployed to Montenegro in late 2017 to carry out a detailed analysis of the sector. The 151 page report (check against final version) comes up with altogether 67 recommendations, which are meant to help Montenegro formulate a national media policy. The topics the report tackles range from state aid rules to copyright issues and medial self-regulation and freedom of speech in the digital age.

The list of recommendations includes among others the following:

·Montenegro needs a thorough, coherent and coordinated review of all the sectorial laws and laws governing or affecting the media sector for its alignment with the EU acquis and CoE standards in media regulation

  • There should be a coordinating body with an overall and overarching responsibility for media policy
  • The Agency for Electronic Media shall be given back its inspection prerogatives and the possibility to introduce financial fines for all breaches that can be unequivocally established and do not require judicial consideration, while under no circumstances these fines shall be applicable to the journalistic professional standard which shall be dealt with exclusively through self-regulation
  • Funding of the functioning of self-regulation shall be ensured via a transpararent, possibly mixed scheme, combining an industry fee with public funds, and allowing an independent implementation of self-regulation
  • The government should provide full support to effective and efficient work of the Commission for investigation of crimes against journalists
  • The concept of media literacy aligned with the EU policy framework should be enshrined in the legislation governing media
  • The independence of the public broadcasters has to be assured on the national and local level.

Minister of Culture Aleksandar Bogdanović welcomed the report and stated:

“We see the critical comments from the European Commission related to the application of self-regulatory standards as a commitment for the media community - to respond to a European regulation with self-regulatory tools and practices on the basis of ethical professional principles, protection of privacy and other topics from a journalistic code which should respect by all media outlets.

In the unity of optimal and proportional legal regulation, and codes of respect for self-regulatory practices, we will build a sustainable environment in which a democratic law institute implies responsibilities and obligations in the public interest of all participants in media life.

The democratic concept of regulation of freedom of expression and information, according to EU standards, implies the broadest public debate in the public interest. Due to the nature of the issues that are standardised and the mechanisms for their implementation, it is necessary to hear the opinion of the broadest public - government representatives, the media community, professional associations, civil society, academic community, independent media regulator."

Plamena Halacheva, Chargée d'affaires and Head of Political Section at the EU Delegation to Montenegro highlighted: "This is another occasion to stress that freedom of the media is a non-negotiable condition for any candidate country on its way towards EU membership, and an important indicator of the functioning of rule of law. It is not by coincidence that freedom of expression and media freedom are a core element of the key chapter 23, including the interim benchmarks that Montenegro is determined to meet." She further said that "this study confirms that media freedom cannot be seen or attained in an isolated way. Mirroring the complexity and variety of all issues at stake, the report proposes a considerable number of recommendations […], which need to be addressed in coherent and coordinated way, while keeping the ultimate goal in sight. The study provides a solid starting point for Montenegro to formulate a comprehensive national media policy."

Lejla Dervišagić, Head of Cooperation Unit at the Media and Internet Division at the Council of Europe, in Strasbourg highlighted during the presentation:" The inquiry was based on Council of Europe standards relating to freedom of expression and freedom of the media, as well as EU regulations. The aim of this inquiry is to offer review of legislative and institutional framework for media and freedom of expression in Montenegro, and to offer conclusions and recommendations that will serve as a guideline for further defining and implementation of national media policies."

Here you can find Summary and Final Report.