THE SEASON OF SERVILE JOURNALISM
- Montenegro -
The virus of servile journalism still rules the Montenegrin information
space. State media resign themselves to it too easily, but even those who are
reputed as “independent” are not immune to it. The former are controlled by
the authorities, but their big influence is also obvious on the majority of
Under the new Law on Public Information, there is no censorship in
Montenegro. However, there is journalist self-censorship, probably a more
dangerous enemy to professional journalism. Editors and journalists of state
media seem to be falling over themselves in servility to the authorities and in
dressing up reality. But, how can one expect professionalism from media whose
directors and editors are appointed by the authorities, which can remove them
whenever they feel like it? The heads of three state media – Radio,
Television, and “Pobjeda,” – were appointed by the ruling tripartite
coalition. The director of “Pobjeda” is at the same time the head of the
ruling Democratic Party of Socialists Caucus. Such management and editorial
structures have turned state media into propaganda services for the ruling
One should also not forget perhaps the most important fact. State media
are financed to a high percentage from the state budget. And who would pay for
negative publicity? The matter of funding becomes even more significant when
known that information in Montenegro is becoming a business faster and faster.
For private media owners, in order to survive, profit is the priority, and in
today’s Montenegro making profit is difficult for opponents of the authorities
or those who are far from them. That is why they are tolerated in exploiting
journalists and other media staff: dozens of young people, striving for
affirmation, work for private media for 100 to 200 marks a month with the status
of part-time associates.
Servile journalism, however, has not enslaved all media.
The weekly “Monitor,” Radio Free Montenegro from Podgorica, and Radio
Montena from Niksic stand out by professional journalism standards. Critical
stand towards events, authorities and opposition, and pluralism of views and
opinions, are the guidelines of their editorial policy. These examples only
confirm that professionalism in journalism, if journalists want it, has room to
develop regardless of political pressure. However, for many it is much more
comfortable to be in the shelter of politics. The authorities sometimes boast
that no new suits have been filed in Montenegro against journalists. That is
true, but it is also true that some suits, which were initiated five years ago
and which have become classical political processes, are a big warning to all
journalists that truth which does not suit the authorities has a big price tag
on it. Therefore, objectively looking, the authorities in Montenegro actually
have no reason to try journalists or media – most of them are generally on
their side as any other position would be too costly anyway.
What also has a reflection on the media are political affairs outside
Montenegro. What exerts particularly negative impact are the constant disputes
between the authorities in Montenegro and Serbia and FRY, which have not stopped
even after the start of destruction of Milosevic’s regime. That is why
Montenegro’s media portrait almost entirely reflects Montenegro’s division
into two blocs, meaning that media are generally under the control of either the
pro-Montenegrin bloc or the pro-Yugoslav bloc. This will probably continue.
Politics has never abandoned the ambition of ruling media and journalists. Political parties strictly adhere to their rule to take election results as the measure of legitimacy for running all public affairs, including state media. Politics and elections are not understood as services for the welfare of the citizens and the state, but as a mandate for dominance and arbitration in all areas. This maintains the symbiosis of authorities and media, while what belongs to the state and society in general is turned into what belongs to the party, and the other way around.
The latest example is the second attempt of the People’s Party to
remove the editorial board of Television Montenegro. This is a minor party, but
it has found itself part of the ruling coalition. The People’s Party, whose
program states that the Montenegrin nation and culture are part of the corps of
the Serb nation and culture, and which does not recognize Montenegrins the right
to their own church, is accusing the Television of leading a campaign against
SRY and the Serbian Orthodox Church.
If the People’s Party succeeds in carrying out its intention, that is
to say if the authorities, which have monopoly over state media, introduce the
practice of dismissing editors of state media if they are not following the
ideological positions of the ruling parties, new pressure should be expected on
media, as well as even more obedient sets of journalists and editors.
anachronistic practice can be changed first of all through a just privatization
of state media and their transformation from propaganda services for the
authorities into responsible public services, and also through faster
democratization of the entire state infrastructure.
Until then, politics will hold media under its coat-tail, impose partial
interest as the dominant interest, and favor propaganda as a method of
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