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news 27 Dec 17

Montenegrin NGOs to Rally in Defence of Broadcaster

NGOs have called for a protest in defence of the state-funded broadcaster RTCG, which has come under fire from the ruling party for working recently in a less partisan fashion.

Dusica Tomovic
BIRN
Podgorica
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Wing1900hk.

Civil rights activist and journalists in Montenegro are to take to the streets on Wednesday to protest against growing attacks and political pressure on the independence of the public broadcaster.

Five NGOs, the organizers of the rally, are calling on Montenegrin citizens to stand in defence of reforms that have started in the public broadcaster, RTCG, to ensure the editorial independence of its news programme.

“The state of Montenegro, the citizens of Montenegro, deserve a good and fair public broadcaster," reads the statement from the NGOs.

They are the Centre for Civic Education, CCE, the Centre for Research and Monitoring, CEMI, the Centre for Investigative Journalism, CIJ MNE, the Centre for Development of Non-Governmental Organizations, CDNGO, the Institute Alternative, IA, and the Network for Affirmation of Non-Governmental Sector, MANS.

They accused the ruling Democratic Party of Socialist, DPS, of continuing to interfere with RTCG, warning that this could even cause the European Union to “halt the negotiation process on Montenegro’s membership of the EU.“

“For years, Montenegrins were paying for the public service RTCG, which was nothing but a biased and partisan TV," the group said.

In recent months, RTCG management has decided to aligned itself less closely with the ruling party and the government.

As a result, RTCG has faced sharp criticism from the Democratic Party of Socialists, which has accused the new management of promoting opposition parties and of hosting experts and activist who only criticize the government.

The new directors and editors in the broadcaster, appointed in March, have also been accused of falsifying TV ratings data, saying that RTCG ratings have risen since they took over.

RTCG is often now targeted by Pink M TV, a branch of the Belgrade-based private broadcaster, which is considered the mouthpiece of both the governments in Podgorica and Belgrade.

The organizers of the protests said the Council of RTCG, the independent body that controls the TV station, had initiated a process of changes in the previous two years and hade opened up space for RTCG to work in a more objective manner.

They also warned that, since September, the ruling party, via the Agency for Prevention of Corruption and a majority in the Administrative Committee of Parliament, have started proceedings to dismiss “unsuitable" members of the Council and appoint new ones more in line with government policy.

“The final blow is being prepared in the form of dismissal of [Council member] Goran Djurovic, one of the initiators of the transformation of RTCG into a true public service," the NGOs said.

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