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News 05 Oct 12

BIRN Cancels Participation at Montenegro Seminar

Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN, has cancelled its participation at the Rose-Roth seminar in Montenegro in solidarity with two investigative journalists who were denied access to the event. 

Milena Milosevic

Dragana Zarkovic Obradovic, the director of BIRN Serbia, withdrew from the 81st Rose-Roth seminar, organized by NATO in cooperation with the Parliament of Montenegro, due to take place on October 15.

She was supposed to speak about the importance of fight against corruption, but she cancelled her participation in solidarity with Miranda Patrucic, one of her fellow speakers.

Patrucic was uninvited from the seminar at the request of Montenegrin officials, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, OCCRP, reported on Thursday, adding that its editor, Drew Sullivan, was also denied access to the event.

Zarkovic-Obradovic explained her decision not to attend the seminar as a matter of personal and professional integrity.

“It is really silly to talk about integrity at a conference when somebody was disinvited just for being critical of the government,“ Zarkovic-Obradovic said.

Patrucic, an investigator for the OCCRP, worked on a joint investigation with the BBC’s Newsnight into the running of Montengro’s Prva Banka [First Bank], which is controlled by the country’s former Prime Minister, Milo Djukanovic, and his family.

The investigation, released in May, argued that Prva Banka was a “business out of control", which the top leadership of the country “treated like an ATM machine."

According to the investigation, when the bank's liquidity was seriously endangered in 2008, the government helped it out with tens of millions of euro in loans.

Patrucic said that a NATO representative informed her about the decision, claiming that it came at the request of the Montenegrin Parliamentary Speaker, Ranko Krivokapic, and that it was connected to the articles she wrote about Prva Banka.

The Rose-Roth programme of co-operation with the parliaments of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) was initiated in 1990.

It holds three to four seminars per year where MPs from NATO member and partner countries meet with government officials, representatives from NATO and other international organisations, as well as experts from universities, think tanks and NGOs, to discuss one specific security issue of common interest.

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