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news 24 Jun 14

Montenegro Rights Activist Sex Claims Spark Outrage

Supporters of prominent Montenegrin civil rights activist Vanja Calovic held a protest rally in Podgorica after a newspaper report accused her of bestiality.

Dusica Tomovic

A group of around 100 Montenegrin journalists, opposition leaders and human rights activists protested on Tuesday against what they called the "shameless campaign" against Calovic by daily newspaper Informer.

Last week Informer released a video recording which it said offered “proof that Calovic is an animal abuser”, alleging that the director of the prominent MANS NGO had sexual relations with her two dogs. The paper published front pages stories in Serbia and Montenegro asking readers to "investigate" whether it was Calovic in the video.

The protesters symbolically trampled on pages from the Montenegrin edition of the Belgrade-based newspaper and demanded its closure.

“Vanja Calovic is a heroine of our times,” university professor Milan Popovic said at the rally.

MANS is an influential NGO in Montenegro and its work on corruption, organized crime and the misuse of state funds has brought it into conflict with the government, which accuses it of political bias.

It has particularly angered the authorities in recent months by publishing several reports and audio recordings which it claimed provide proof of serious wrongdoing by Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic’s governing Democratic Party of Socialists, DPS.

Tuesday’s protest was held outside the headquarters of the DPS, then moved to Informer's offices and ended in front of a building that houses an NGO called the Public Policy Institute, which is led by a former Serbian official, Vladimir ‘Beba’ Popovic.

Popovic used to be the information chief for the Serbian government and last year founded his own NGO in Montenegro and in Serbia. However he has been accused by some critics of being an informal media adviser to Djukanovic and Serbian PM Aleksandar Vucic and being behind media attacks on their opponents.

Informer's editor-in-chief Novak Uskokovic meanwhile has filed charges after allegedly receiving a threat from an unnamed man who vowed to "break his fingers" because of his articles about Calovic.

Informer editors were not available for comment.

The owner of independent Montenegrin daily Vijesti, Zeljko Ivanovic, has blamed Djukanovic and Popovic for the accusations against Calovic, which he claimed were part of an orchestrated smear campaign against the premier’s political opponents.

Ivanovic said that the articles that Informer has published about Calovic were themselves a kind of “bestial torture of critics of the Montenegrin regime”.

Popovic has also declined to comment.

Last week, the US embassy and the EU delegation in Podgorica called Informer’s reporting "irresponsible and improper".  

The embassy alleged that it “spreads prurient gossip in an attempt to put pressure on civil society figures”. 


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