Monday, August 10, 2009

HUU: Podgorica's Mayor must not go unpunished

HOMELAND UNITES US, INC. -- Commission for Human Rights and Protection of National Minorities

TUZ, MONTENEGRO, Monday, August 10, 2009 – The recent attacks by Podgorica’s mayor on two high profile investigative journalists from the daily Vijesti has sparked outrage among domestic and international media outlets, including institutions responsible for reviewing Montenegro’s petitions for European integration. What will happen to Miomir Mugosa and his son is anyone’s guess, but if history is a prelude to the outcome, they will walk as have many other politicians caught up in government abuses of power.

Last week’s events are nothing new in Montenegro’s enduring battle to quash “freedom of the press” in investigative journalism, where politicians usually find themselves at the center of attention. But as Montenegro lobbies to be an adopted child of the EU, decision-makers in Brussels should take note of this latest incident and ask whether this very important element of democracy can be protected. International monitoring agencies have expressed their concerns, and if their predictions hold true, media independence, and as a result, government accountability, are far from meeting any pre-requisites for joining institutions with the label “democracy” attached to it.

In 2008, the Global Integrity Report, which assesses the strengths and weaknesses of national-level anti-corruption systems, gave Montenegro a rating of “Very Weak” on the question: “Are journalists safe when investigating corruption?” The Report goes on to outline the history of media/journalist abuses, where many are committed by government officials still in office today:
September 2007 — Journalist Zeljko Ivanovic is attacked by three men. He later suspects former Premier Djukanovic orchestrated the attack against him, given his publications outlining corruption. Djukanovic sues Ivanovic for damage to his dignity and for mental strife stemming from the allegations.

November 2007 — Editor-in-chief of Radio Berane, Tufik Softic, is assaulted by two unidentified men.

December 2005 — The editorial staff of public television network TVCG (TV Montenegro) quits in protest after the radio and television council fires the station's director.

May 2004 — Prominent newspaper publisher and editor Dusko Jovanovic is gunned down in the street. His newspaper, Dan, frequently publishes accusations of corruption in the highest levels of government, and his murder heightens tensions in the country.

Correspondingly, the U.S. State Department recently highlighted similar abuses in their Advancing Freedom and Democracy Report for Montenegro in May 2009. On human rights violations, numerous public officials have been accused of “harassment of journalists,” including “widespread corruption in law enforcement and judiciary”; the latter making it more difficult to prosecute the former. The Report goes on to mention that corruption is so widespread in Montenegro that the U.S. has initiated programs to award investigative journalists to press for more government accountability, in the same fashion that led to the attacks last week.

How the government handles this and other incidents involving crimes committed by elected officials will determine Montenegro’s readiness to be part of the growing family of democratic states, but if Podgorica continues to ignore these clear signs on internal corruptive behavior, then the international community must act and demand that the state plays a meaningful role in protecting the rights of the abused while at the same time prosecutes the crimes of the perpetrators.

Earlier this year, a report presented by The National Democratic Institute on Transparency and Accountability in the Montenegrin Governance System found that “many laws (in Montenegro), while reflecting democratic intent, have few enforcement mechanisms to ensure compliance. In addition, parliament’s oversight of government is hindered by the legislature’s inability to obtain information about what the government is doing, despite legal provisions guaranteeing all citizens the right to information from the state administration.” NDI concludes in its Report that Podgorica take serious steps in making government officials more accountable for their actions.

In conjunction with other interested parties closely following these developments, HUU requests that Montenegro punish those involved with these illicit acts that are systematically designed to discourage the media from carrying out their constitutional rights of investigative journalism. HUU will continue to oversee these activities and report on any developments to international monitoring agencies for further review.


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

IT is apparaent that Mont is lacking behind all varants of democratic development, but this event was absurd.

How can such a high profile politician screw up like this? In a country with just over 600K people, did he think it would be blown over for other news? My God, everythig makes news in Mont!

Regardless, Mugosha must appear in frot of a judge or risk the democratic transtion that his country claims to be making progress. Do you think Milo is angry at this? Hell Yes!

But I am sure Milo called Mugy and said something like, "Don't worry brother, I always find myself in the same predicament, but you will be fine, just trust in our friends on the payroll -- police and judges ..."

Anonymous said...

Hahahahha ... that sounds just like a Montenegrin politician.

Nothing will happen to him, it will all get swept under the rug.


Anonymous said...

Let's wait and see, the international community is waving big carrots in front of Montrenegro's horse-drawn carriage, and if she wants to eat she must show evidence of change first.

Anonymous said...

Oh come on, that's all Albanians in Mont have been doing: waiting and seeing.

Aren't there any NGOs out there to make noise? I would be surprised if there isn'y a media interest group that protects/defends media interests and freedoms in Mont.

But then again, the DPS might be running it, or paying them off.

Anonymous said...

I really wonder if anyone thinks about this? Does teh international community that is responsible for reviewing Montenegro's readiness for European integration give a shit if incidents like this happen?

I am sure they do, but what is their thresh-hold? How much do they allow before they say enough? Is there a rul in Brussels that says, "OK, we know corruption and abuse of power exists, but we need to turn the other cheek or we will get into a big mess"?

I think Montenegro is the Darling of the Balkans because there has been no conflict per se like what we witnessed in the 1990s with its neighbors.

Also, the United States wanst a stable Montenegro, and they too will allow things that are unconstitutional in nature to slip, as long as it does not resemble genocide.

Anonymous said...

I guess it's good that HUU is not only limited to Albanian issues in Mont., seems like they have extended their scope to all forms of human rights abuses, including freedom of press.

That should be good for PR purposes, where other Alb-organizations only cry foul when Albanians in Ulqini and Malesia are hurt in some way.

Props to HUU.

Anonymous said...

The “Commission for the Protection of Journalists” needs to hear about this. I know Obama made a presentation to them not too long ago; these are serious allegations and should be handled appropriately. No one is above the law, but unfortunately, and as the Blog suggest, enforcement of laws are not that reliable in Montenegro.

Anonymous said...

As I've said before, it all looks good on paper, but if you can't implement your laws, statutues, and constitution, its all null and void.

Anonymous said...

Read the newspapers in Montenegro. You get a sense of disgust all the way around.

However, Mugosha does have supporters that will not bend. And if Vijesti presses too hard, they may feel the bark.

Anonymous said...

Jeesh, just when I thought gay-marriage in Albania was picking up steam, leave it up to knuckle-head Miomir to steal the headlines.

What a loser, he and his lavendar suits.

Anonymous said...

Anything new? Is this bastard going to jail?

Anonymous said...

I was directed to this webpage regarding this particular article. Is there a contact number for this organization, HUU?

~ Jona

Anonymous said...

"the international community " HAHAHA