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news 13 Sep 17

Montenegro PM's Brother Condemned for Threatening Reporter

Montenegrin journalists' associations have called on the authorities to end what they call a 'culture of impunity' over crimes against reporters, after a journalist recorded the PM's brother threatening him.

Dusica Tomovic
BIRN
Podgorica
 
 Vladimir Otasevic. Photo: Courtesy of Otasevic.

Media watchdog organisations have expressed dismay and concern after a journalist in Montenegro, Vladimir Otasevic, reported that the Prime Minister's brother had threatened his safety.

The OSCE's Representative on Freedom of the Media Harlem Désir on Wednesday condemned the threat directed at Otasevic, a journalist from the Montenegrin newspaper Dan, and called for a swift investigation.

“I strongly condemn the recent death threat made against Otasevic,” Désir said. ”Violence and harassment, including all threats against members of the media, are totally unacceptable.”

“I urge the authorities in Montenegro to swiftly investigate this incident. Allowing such threats to go unanswered only perpetuates a culture of impunity,” Désir said.

Otasevic said the brother of Montenegrin Prime Minister Dusko Markovic, Velizar Markovic, issued the threat during a telephone conversation on Monday.

In the conversation, Otasevic, who was asking for a phone number of the PM's other brother, said Markovic verbally threatened him by alluding to the 2004 killing of the Dan newspaper editor Dusko Jovanovic.

While Markovic's family on Tuesday dismissed the accusation, Dan released an audio recording of the conversation on Tuesday.

Other journalists' associations, NGOs dealing with human rights, and some opposition parties also condemned the threat, and demanded that the government do more to protect journalists and ensure a free press.

Montenegro’s Media Trade Union called the case the most serious incident for the media community in the last two years.

"We are expressing concern over the brutal and terrible rhetoric that Prime Minister's brother used when talking with the reporter," the union said.

It said that it was also a sign that the situation in Montenegro had not changed in terms of media freedom.

"Little incentive is needed for those who feel powerful enough in a country that does not condemn attacks on journalists to give themselves the freedom to threaten people who do their job," the union added.

In its latest report published in November, the rights organisation Human Rights Watch counted 25 threats and attacks against journalists in Montenegro since August 2015. Of the 25, 15 were physical attacks on journalists and their property and two were threats.

The remaining eight were cases of interference with the media during the anti-government demonstrations in October 2015, including arbitrary arrests of journalists and seizure of equipment.

All but three cases remain unsolved.

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