Media in Montenegro – Interview with Mihailo Jovović, editor-in-chief…

Media in Montenegro – Interview with Mihailo Jovović, editor-in-chief of Vijesti

After the dissolution of Yugoslavia and a transition period, in Montenegro – now a candidate country for EU membership – the evolution of the media landscape continued in parallel with the attempts to accelerate democratic developments.


By Sava Mirković
Originally published by OBCT. Also available in ITA and BHS

According to the latest ranking by Reporters Without Borders on press freedom in the world, Montenegro occupies the 40th place (out of a total of 180 countries taken into consideration), therefore it is positioned quite high compared to the other countries of the post-Yugoslav area. However, the situation is not rosy.


External interference, mainly from Serbia, through media ownership structures, and the pervasiveness of propaganda are just some of the problems plaguing the media sector in Montenegro. While on the one hand the European Commission, in its latest report on Montenegro, considers the level of pluralism of the Montenegrin media landscape to be satisfactory, the Media Ownership Monitor operated by the Global Media Registry highlights some critical issues. Specifically, a high degree of cross-media ownership concentration and a significant risk of political interference in editorial decisions.


The first problem arises from the fact that eight main media companies control 89.5% of the Montenegrin media market (TV, print media, radio, and web portals). The second problematic aspect is linked to a strong polarization of the media, with a clear tendency to align with certain political positions.


The public broadcaster (Radio Television of Montenegro, RTCG) is the main source of information for Montenegrin citizens. The RTCG is currently led by Boris Raonić, appointed for the first time in 2021 with the aim of changing the management framework of the public service, until then allegedly controlled by the Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS). In 2023 Raonić was reconfirmed as head of the RTCG, despite the decision of the High Court which deemed Raonić’s appointment illegitimate due to a conflict of interest.


The new law on public service, approved by the Podgorica parliament on 19 June, addresses the issue of the procedures for appointing the director of the RTCG and has become the bone of contention between the political forces precisely because of Raonić’s re-election.


Also worth highlighting is the issue of safety of journalists which, in Montenegro, is linked first and foremost to the inability (or lack of will) of the competent authorities to conduct adequate investigations and resolve cases of attacks on journalists. The unsolved murder of Duško Jovanović, owner and editor of the newspaper Dan, is one of the main indicators of the impotence of state institutions which, twenty years later, have still not managed to clarify what happened. Cases like this raise concern among citizens, fuel distrust in the judiciary and police forces, and contribute to the creation of a dangerous environment for journalists.


We spoke about this, and much more, with Mihailo Jovović, editor-in-chief of the independent newspaper Vijesti and president of the Commission for monitoring the work of the authorities responsible for investigating attacks on journalists.

This interview was conducted by Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso Transeuropa (OBCT) as part of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), a Europe-wide mechanism which tracks, monitors and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States and candidate countries. The MFRR is co-funded by the European Commission. 


Two decades of impunity in case of murder of…

SafeJournalists and MFRR Condemn Two Decades of Impunity in Case of murder of Duško Jovanović

On the 20th anniversary of the murder of Montenegrin journalist Duško Jovanović, the SafeJournalists Network and partners in the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) call for stronger action from the authorities.

Media freedom organisations jointly condemn the two decades of impunity in the case of the murder of journalist Duško Jovanović and urge the Montenegrin authorities, both political representatives and relevant bodies, to take all necessary measures to identify and bring the perpetrators and masterminds to justice.


Duško Jovanović was the founder, director, and chief editor of the daily newspaper “Dan,” one of the first private newspapers in Montenegro. He was killed in front of his newspaper’s office on May 27, 2004. For this gravest crime in the history of Montenegrin journalism, only one accomplice has been convicted, who will soon be free as he has nearly served his multi-year prison sentence.


According to relevant domestic and international media organizations, the years-long investigation was conducted poorly and ineffectively, with numerous recorded oversights for which no one has been held accountable. Despite announcements from the highest Montenegrin officials in recent years that progress in the investigation could be expected, none has been made, or at least the public has not been informed. For this reason, we justifiably fear that this could remain one of the key unsolved cases, sending a devastating message about the media and socio-political landscape in Montenegro, that crimes against journalists are allowed to go unpunished. Therefore, it is essential that the state of Montenegro takes decisive steps towards justice as the family and colleagues of the late Jovanović, as well as the entire public, have been waiting too long.


In addition to Jovanović’s murder, over the past two decades, more than 100 cases of attacks on journalists and media property have been recorded in Montenegro, many of which remain unresolved, with some even having reached the statute of limitations. Hence, more decisive action by Montenegrin state authorities is needed to ensure the safety of journalists and resolve these cases.


We strongly urge the Montenegrin authorities to take immediate and concrete steps to address and resolve this most severe case in Montenegrin history. The time for action is now—swift and decisive measures are essential to ensure justice and restore public trust, and to show that crimes against journalists are not permitted.

Signed by:

SafeJournalists Network 

Association of Journalists of Kosovo

Association of Journalists of Macedonia

BH Journalists Association

Croatian Journalists’ Association

Independent Journalists’ Association of Serbia

Trade Union of Media of Montenegro


Media Freedom Rapid Response

European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)

European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)

Free Press Unlimited (FPU)

International Press Institute (IPI)

OBC Transeuropa (OBCT)

This statement was coordinated by the SafeJournalist Network and the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), a Europe-wide mechanism which tracks, monitors and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States and Candidate Countries.

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Montenegro: Jelena Jovanović, journalist targeted by the mafia

Montenegro: Jelena Jovanović, journalist targeted by the mafia


Dealing with organised crime and risking your life, needing police protection just to be able to do your job and live your everyday life. Jelena Jovanović, journalist from the Montenegrin newspaper Vijesti, explains what it is like to live under police protection

By Vukašin Obradović

Originally published by OBCT  . Also available in ITA  and BHS 

For over two years Jelena Jovanović, a journalist for the newspaper Vijesti in Podgorica, has lived under police protection: she gets up in the morning, goes about her day and goes to sleep in the evening accompanied by the officers in charge of protecting her. Jovanović has been dealing with issues related to organised crime for years and, due to her work, she is exposed almost daily to risks that threaten her safety. Highlighting the dangers faced by those investigating corruption and organised crime go far beyond “the usual”, Jovanović explains that when a journalist comes into possession of compromising information, on politicians or on prominent members of the criminal underworld, they begin to be perceived as a threat to the interests of powerful groups and individuals involved in criminal and corrupt activities.

“From that moment – and I have experienced many throughout my career – there is no longer anything ordinary or spontaneous. As I get closer to the truth, the threats become more and more concrete and the ‘benevolent advice’ to give up leaves room for attempts to intimidate me. In recent years, it has happened several times that they also tried to stop my investigations with hateful messages on social media and attempts to criminalise and discredit my work. These situations, in my opinion, are real turning points in which the journalist, subjected to unbearable pressure, finds themselves at a crossroads: give up or continue to risk their life to uncover the truth”.


How much has your private and professional life changed since you received police protection?

My life has changed significantly since I was first assigned an escort towards the end of 2018. Fortunately, that first experience did not last long, unlike the current one that began in August 2021.

I have been forced to change my habits, to give up travel and often concerts, theatre performances, sporting events, mountain walks… In simple words, for almost two and a half years now I have not been able to freely go about my daily life, because for me those places are no longer safe. This says a lot about the changes that have occurred in my private and professional life.


Do you believe that the security services have taken all the necessary measures to protect you from those who put your life in danger?

The very fact that I am here talking to you answers your question. However, I am aware that no institution in the world can guarantee absolute protection to anyone. This is even more true for Montenegro, where dozens of police officials had close links with the criminal groups on which my investigations were focused.

For me it was devastating to read the transcripts of messages exchanged through the Sky application, where some senior police officers, whom I had previously consulted, forwarded my questions to the leaders of some criminal groups, reached an agreement with them on the answers to give me and promised that they would ‘explain’ certain things to me. In that context, ‘explain’ could have several meanings, but it certainly could not mean anything good. That experience, however, made me reflect, making me even more convinced that, in a society like the Montenegrin one, keeping quiet and keeping aloof is more dangerous than speaking openly about anomalies that we witness.


Does living under protection make it more difficult for you to do journalism?

It is a significant obstacle. Some sources refuse to meet me because they do not trust the police and fear that the officers tasked with protecting my physical safety are actually here to take note of my encounters. However, the work I do every day shows that somehow I manage to move forward.


How safe can journalists feel in Montenegro?

It is completely inappropriate to talk about the safety of journalists in a country where, twenty years after the murder of Duško Jovanović, the instigators have still not been identified, where we do not know who brutally attacked Mladen Stojović and Tufik Softić, who shot Olivera Lakić, who placed a bomb under the windows of Mihailo Jovović’s office, then chief editor of the newspaper Vijesti… In a country where clarity has never been reached on a number of attacks on journalists and assets owned by the media – a country deeply divided, so much so that even the media landscape is polarised – those who do journalism respecting the ethical rules of the profession almost daily end up in the crosshairs of various obscure structures and individuals linked to them. Instead, those who, unfortunately, continue to ridicule our beautiful profession in their articles and reports – which are anything but the search for the truth – feel safer than morally upright journalists. However, I believe that their conscience – assuming they have it – is much more tormented, because they too know that the truth is like water – sooner or later it finds its way.


Do you feel protected by living under police protection?

The police officers who are tasked with protecting me are well-trained professionals who I fully trust and I am infinitely grateful to always have them by my side. However, no one in the world can feel completely safe, and not even me. But I’m not afraid, and for me this is much more important than the feeling of safety or insecurity. Helping me overcome my fears are my family, friends and colleagues, but also all those good people who support my work.

This statement was coordinated by the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), a Europe-wide mechanism which tracks, monitors and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States and candidate countries. 

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Montenegro: After a new acquittal, the hopes and projects…

Montenegro: After a new acquittal, the hopes and projects of journalist Jovo Martinovic

After over seven years of judicial ordeal and after spending fifteen months in pre-trial detention on drug trafficking charges, investigative journalist Jovo Martinovic was acquitted for the second time by the Supreme Court on 17 January. We interviewed him while waiting for the final verdict.

Interview by Paola Rosà

One last step is still missing, but the trial of Jovo Martinovic, investigative journalist tried, convicted, acquitted, reconvicted, and acquitted again for criminal association and drug trafficking, seems over after almost eight years of authentic ordeal. Under the international spotlight since 2015, for over 15 months in pre-trial detention, the protagonist is now simply tired and eager to go back to doing his job in a country where journalism faces corruption and threats, and where reports of violence are ignored and even cases of murder often go unpunished.

A few days ago the second acquittal arrived in a process that the Supreme Court has asked to be redone twice. In all there were two convictions and two acquittals, with almost 15 months in pre-trial detention. How do you feel about this last decision?

The sentence is not final, it must be confirmed by the Supreme Court. At the same time I recognise that it will be a formality, as it was the Court itself that sent everything back to the sender, establishing that in the new trial other elements had to be taken into consideration and some gaps filled. So, it’s a formality, but to celebrate I have to wait a few more months.


In this last trial, your activity as a journalist was considered, acknowledging that those contacts with the criminal group were aimed at journalistic investigations. So, good news. But I guess you’re exhausted by now from telling your case: a journalist is more used to asking questions than receiving them, right?

That’s right!


If you had to find an explanation for what happened, would you mention revenge, punishment, injustice, or rather the will to control and silence journalism?

It’s just the legacy of the communist system. Unlike in all other countries, communists continued to rule in Montenegro until 2020. It was the same political party that came to power in 1945, and just changed the name after the fall of the Iron Curtain.


So, nothing personal?

The new communist system did all it could to retain control of each aspect of life. And if you work for international outlets, then you are automatically a foreign agent, a suspect. I have been treated as such for years. This is not my first incarceration: in 2004 I was in detention for the denigration of the good name of the country. It’s a charge that had not been used since 1974. But in 2004 they charged me for denigration of the good name of Montenegro because I happened to be a photographer for the British guy who wrote the story on the sale of Roma children in the country. The funniest thing is that when I was arrested I wasn’t questioned about the story at all. I was questioned about who was assisting Italian and German press coverage of the secret smuggling, that was the main topic of my interrogation, not the actual story that was used as a pretext for taking me in.


This episode tells us a lot about journalism in the country, isn’t it?

Exactly, if you don’t cooperate, if they can’t force you to submit, or to do whatever you are told by the secret service, be prepared for consequences.


Your case received a lot of solidarity and support from international organisations, including MFRR. What did you experience with your colleagues from Montenegro?

It must be said that they are not really my colleagues, in the sense that we don’t deal with the same things and I don’t work for Montenegrin newspapers; I also deal with other countries as well. So, it’s not like they knew me that much. Furthermore, at the beginning it was also difficult to let people know what was happening to me: the news of my preventive detention only came out after three months. In any case, I must say that they then made up for it, several journalists’ associations made themselves heard, as well as some independent newspapers, and even colleagues who work in state broadcasters showed empathy, some publicly, others privately.


So, there is hope for journalism in Montenegro. What do you think?

I think so! Since former communists no longer control the government, people are slowly getting rid of that legacy. It’s not just about massive surveillance, but also self-censorship, because even now, journalists are aware of what they can cover, or how far they can go in terms of certain issues.


Is the situation in Montenegro influenced by the fact that it is a small country?

What makes it unique is that the same political party ruled for 75 years, without interruption, from 1945 to 2020. It’s a small country, 600,000 people, which is easy to control and which is not strategically important to any big power, and the big powers were not that bothered with internal reforms, they just wanted stability and no big commotion, like in Bosnia or in Kosovo.


In the end, what is the outcome of your story? What have you lost, and what have you learned?

The consequences were bad, I’ve been marked. But on the other hand, when you have a clean conscience and you know that you were just doing your job, it just gives you strength to carry on. And I continue to do my work as before and even more. But secondly, I just won’t compromise, I mean, this is not the first time that I have encountered warnings and threats. I rather believe that this came as a result of me ignoring early warnings and threats. Eventually, it’s good for freedom of speech and the press, because giving in is something that backfires.


It seems you had no other choice.

I just carry on. I know it’s not pleasant, but it’s real. You find yourself under such charges, and of course in detention it’s like science-fiction meets you in a way, you have the feeling it’s happening to someone else, you’re just a by-stander, it’s surreal but it’s a reality at the same time.


What kind of message does your story hold for the rest of the country?

Well, the country is known for many unsolved attacks against journalists, there are many cases of physical assaults, threats, there’s a case when one editor-in-chief, Dusko Jovanovic, was killed in 2004, and it is still unsolved. So, freedom of the press has been constantly mentioned in many EU reports, the country was at the bottom of the Index by RSF, so it is something that has been known for years and remained unaddressed by the former government, except for promises.


If things go well in your case, are you expecting compensation?

Yes, once the verdict is final, I can claim compensation, but the main compensation is the clearing of guilt. I don’t believe money can compensate what I have been through. The main thing is just to clear my name. Having a pile of dirt thrown upon, a criminal record against someone who has fought all his life against injustice and crime and corruption, is a lot. Clearing my name is my main satisfaction, the rest comes after.


Will it be possible to name the perpetrators?

It depends. Recently, the deputy chief of the special prosecutor’s office was arrested for abuse of his office, and some other things have changed in terms of the abuse of the previous special prosecutor office. So it may come a day when the prosecutor is not only involved in abuse of office or cooperation with the criminal cartels that were operating in the country, but some other evidence may come up that they were complicit in covering up attacks on journalists. Actually, recently a former police official accused the former attorney general of being complicit in covering up of the murder investigation of Dusko Jovanovic killed in 2004. It’s reasonable to conclude that there will be new details on how the former prosecutors worked, or failed to work in accordance with the law and the Constitution. But this is not my task, it’s up to the new prosecutors in power to deal with.


It must be quite hard to continue to believe in justice.

Thanks to the EU there are certain changes in the justice system. Unfortunately, all comes with big external pressure, but nevertheless it’s happening. And of course it will take some time. Well, it will take probably a lot of time till we have a judiciary which is on pair with the European Union. But it’s a process, and we’re all aware that it takes time.


Your plans for the future?

For the time being, I carry on with my work. After so many years, and after being incarcerated nearly 15 months, you just learn to live with that. You just carry on with your life despite all the difficulties. And I think that’s a good attitude to take, because if we cave into resentment and hard feelings, that’s bad, that backfires. My approach was to remain open, to take it easy and to just move on. And this gives you more strength than being resentful and bitter, blaming people and lashing out. It’s something that I have always wanted to avoid.

This interview was conducted Paola Rosà for OBC Transeuropa as part of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), a Europe-wide mechanism which tracks, monitors, and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States and candidate countries.

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Montenegro: Impunity must end for shooting of journalist Olivera…

Montenegro: Impunity must end for shooting of journalist Olivera Lakić

The undersigned partners of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) today renew our call for an end to impunity for the shooting of investigative journalist Olivera Lakić in 2018 and hope the recent arrest of suspects will lead to all those involved ultimately facing justice.

Our organisations also welcome the recent cross party approval of amendments to the criminal code which will strengthen protections for journalists but stress the need for further reforms to create a safe and open environment for independent journalism.

Lakić, an investigative journalist covering organised crime and corruption for the daily Vijesti, was shot in the leg outside her apartment in Podgorica on 8 May 2018. She was wounded but survived after being treated in hospital. The attack was first classified as attempted murder but later changed to grievous bodily harm.

Prosecutors said the motive for the attack was Lakić’s investigations into local crime gangs and their links with regional criminal organisations. Although numerous suspects were arrested in the wake of the attack, more than three and a half years later no one has been brought to trial for the broad daylight shooting and Lakić remains under police protection.

On 17 December 2021, Montenegro’s High Court ordered the 30-day detention of Branislav Karadzic and police officer Darko Lalovic, who are suspected by the Special State Prosecutor’s Office of following Lakić before the attack and passing on information about her movements to the “Kavac” drug gang. Concerningly, the officer worked in the same department of the police that is responsible for providing security for Lakić. If proven, involvement of the officer would be devastating for trust in the police force.

While the recent arrests are a welcome development, no formal indictments have been brought against them or any of those suspected of involvement in the shooting. Overall, progress in prosecuting those behind the attack remains painfully slow. Multiple members of the drug gang, including the alleged gunman, have been formally identified as suspects. However, the case remains in the investigation phase. Due to the sensitivity of the case, the High Prosecutors Office (HPO) and the Special Prosecutors Office (SPO) are declining to disclose secret information to the Commission for Monitoring the Competences of Threats and Violence Against Journalists, meaning little information is publicly available.

Our organisations see Olivera Lakić’s case as a litmus test for both the independence of the judicial system and the stated aims of the new government to improve the climate for media freedom by tackling cases of ingrained impunity for attacks on journalists. The 2004 killing of the director and editor-in-chief of the daily newspaper Dan, Dusko Jovanovic, remains mired in impunity, casting a dark shadow over the country’s landscape for media freedom. As Deputy Prime Minister Dritan Abazovic rightly noted recently, no journalist in Montenegro can feel fully safe until that case is solved.

A legal system in which these kinds of serious physical attacks on media workers are punished with appropriate sanctions is crucial. It is uplifting therefore that on December 29 the Parliament of Montenegro unanimously voted to pass amendments to the criminal code which prescribe stronger criminal protection of journalists. We praise the dedicated efforts of Montenegrin journalists’ unions, NGOs and civil society organisations which developed the bill in cooperation with the Ministry of Justice. Under the new law, those convicted of causing grievous bodily harm to those engaged in the dissemination of public information – as in the case of Olivera Lakić – will face penalties of up to eight years in prison instead of the current five years, with stricter punishments for journalists’ killers.

The passing of this legislation marks a welcome step forward on media freedom for the government of Prime Minister Zdravko Krivokapić. To be fully effective, it must be accompanied by funding for capacity building for law enforcement authorities and strong implementation of the legislation by prosecutors. A complementary next step in the fight for justice for journalists would be hiring a foreign expert to investigate Dusko Jovanovic’s murder. Though such an appointment was approved by the former Commission for Investigation of Attacks on Journalists three years ago, no action has since been taken. We urge the current administration to reverse this situation and address other recommendations of the Commission.

While the recent legislative development is welcome, much remains to be done to improve the wider situation for media freedom and independent journalists in Montenegro. As well as the major cases of engrained impunity, the day-to-day safety of journalists and precarious working conditions remain an issue of concern. Verbal and physical attacks and threats against journalists and media workers remain common. The attacks on Vijesti Television journalist Sead Sadiković in March 2021, the death threats sent to Antena M editor-in-chief Darko Sukovic and columnist Dragan Bursać in May, and the intimidation of Milka Tadić Mijović in August all illustrate the type of threats journalists face for doing their jobs. Denunciation by officials of all attacks and intimidation of journalists remains vital.

Separately, but of equal importance, efforts to complete the reform of Radio Television of Montenegro (RTCG) from a state media to a public service media must be handled in a non-political manner and always with the goal of increasing its independence and professionalism. Management changes and the appointment in June 2021 of a new RTCG Council are recognised as having led to more pluralistic coverage. However, future proposals to adapt the public broadcaster’s funding model must be conducted in close consultation with journalists groups and relevant international media organizations. Legislation is required to ensure the independence of the media and the transparency of ownership. Meanwhile, the conviction and sentencing to one year in prison of investigative journalist Jovo Martinović remains a major issue of concern for our organisations.

Much remains to be done to dismantle the entrenched polarisation in Montenegro that poses continued challenges for the independence of public service broadcasters; the state’s response to crimes against journalists; and the fair allocation of state support to media via advertising. The new administration must oversee reforms which roll back the state capture of regulatory bodies and create an even playing field for the media to work free from interference and pressure. There are no quick fixes here and significant political will is required. Yet hope for progress remains amongst the country’s journalistic community. Our organisations stand ready to support the work of the Commission and the government of Montenegro in achieving these goals.

Signed by:

  • ARTICLE 19
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
  • European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
  • Free Press Unlimited (FPU)
  • International Press Institute (IPI)
  • OBC Transeuropa (OBCT)
  • Trade Union Media of Montenegro (TUMM)

This statement was coordinated by the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), a Europe-wide mechanism which tracks, monitors and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States and Candidate Countries.


Montenegro, a justice free country

Montenegro, a justice free country

Interview with Milka Tadic Mijovic, one of Montenegro’s leading journalists and president of the Center for Investigative Journalism, who has always been at the forefront of the fight for a better country and for the defence of freedom of expression.


Milka Tadic Mijovic is a brave woman. For more than thirty years she has been at the forefront of the fight for a better Montenegro, for a country that is not only European and pro-Western in words and in which the rule of law and functional democracy are everyday life and not a chimera. Tadic Mijovic was one of the founders of the weekly Monitor and of the Association for the Yugoslav Democratic Initiative (UJDI) – during the bloody sunset of the former Yugoslavia – and among the anti-war activists. For ten years she fought against the regime of Slobodan Milosevic at the end of the 20th century, while for the last 15 years she has opposed the “captured state” of Milo Dukanovic.

In this interview, the president of the Center for Investigative Journalism (CIN) in Montenegro talks about the attacks on journalists, their position, and the problems Montenegro and the new government face in dismantling the dense network of relations tied to the thirty-year regime of the Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS), particularly in the judiciary.

Why are journalists in Montenegro so often the target of verbal and even physical attacks? Among other things, you too were recently verbally assaulted…

Montenegro is among the last countries in Europe in the Reporters Without Borders freedom index. One of the reasons is the large number of attacks on journalists that have remained unsolved, from  Duško Jovanović to Olivera Lakić. My case was not that serious and dangerous. The fact remains that journalists and the media receive a lot of threats and pressures. The biggest problem is not the constant attacks, but none of these serious incidents going to trial. Widespread impunity is the reason there are so many attacks on journalists. No one is afraid to attack journalists because no one has been taken to court, not to mention sentenced. Even when the perpetrators of criminal acts against journalists are accidentally found, the instigators are not. The target of the attacks are always people and the media that investigate the links between organised crime and prominent politicians. The directors of the Montenegrin daily Dan and the Croatian weekly Nacional (Dusko Jovanovic and Ivo Pukanic) were killed. Olivera Lakic also wrote about them and they shot her. Montenegro is one of the most tragic examples of political collusion and cooperation and organised crime. This connection is so strong that it is often not possible to draw a clear boundary between these two realities.

So the problem is the judiciary not doing its job?

One of the key problems is the judiciary. Our country, as Milovan Dilas once said, is “a land without justice”. The judiciary in Montenegro was and still is under the control of politics and sometimes under the control of criminal structures. EU accession negotiations have become the longest in history precisely because the judiciary is a real cancer in our system. Even the principle of the rule of law cannot be established in Montenegro.

Is the appointment of a new National Council of the Investigating Judiciary a precondition for starting the creation of rule of law?

The previous regime lost power in the elections on August 30 last year, but not its strength. They have maintained the main levers of economic power and control of the institutions. The very fact that a year after the elections the new government and the majority did not have the strength to make substantial changes is sufficiently eloquent. This speaks volumes about how difficult it is to dismantle this system that has controlled everything in the country for 30 years. An independent chief prosecutor and prosecutor would be the first important step in creating the rule of law. We never had prosecutors who were not controlled by the political elites. It would be a really big step forward not only to improve the internal situation in Montenegro, but also a strong push towards EU membership. I think that those who have lost power will do everything not to lose control of the judiciary.

So can it be said that Dukanovic’s DPS, and the other parties that were part of government coalitions in previous decades, spoke using European language while ruling in an authoritarian way?

Yes, one might say. The way they ruled was absolutely authoritarian. We do not have a democracy that works. It is also true that all the foreign policy priorities of Montenegro coincide with the priorities of the EU and the USA. And it was this orientation that kept the DPS in power. The West has long supported the DPS government, which has used this support as one of the main levers to strengthen power. The rhetoric of the previous government was European, but the practice was authoritarian. It could be said that Montenegro had a system that coincided with those created in the former Soviet republics, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan. A small group of people holding both political and economic power.

So someone has Aliyev, someone Nazarbaev and Montenegro Dukanovic…

If you look carefully, the biggest investors in Montenegro come from these countries. We have just completed an investment and investor survey in Montenegro. That research showed that they were mostly various Aliyevs, and Russian oligarchs. Anyway, a large majority of people from the East. The explanation is very simple: the way of doing business and managing a business is similar if not identical to the logic applied by the old regime in Montenegro. So, if you want to make a deal, you do not need to have knowledge, skills, a good project, ability to cope with obligations, to be competitive. No, the only important thing is to have a good connection with the highest authorities, i.e. the phone number of the right person to talk to. The door to a privileged position on the market, in business with the state, etc. is immediately opened.

Let’s go back to the position of journalists and the media in Montenegro. It sounds paradoxical, but despite the great pressure, the attacks, and even the killings, we still have professional and independent media in Montenegro and it is a fact that many in the Western Balkans cannot say the same. How do you explain this little paradox?

The fundamental thing is that in Montenegro the media regarded as pacifists in the 1990s managed to survive. Unlike for example B92 in Serbia, the Montenegrin media managed to survive and preserve an independent editorial policy. Thanks to this we have a couple of professional media outlets in Montenegro. However, it is colleagues engaged in investigative journalism who come under the greatest pressure. It also happens that journalists with strong political views are under attack. In other words, anyone who does their job professionally can be targeted.

Can journalists in Montenegro make a living from their work, that is, from the salaries they earn?

Very difficult. There is no free market and fair competition in Montenegro as in states that have a long or well-established democratic history. The advertising market is tightly controlled, and the members of the previous government still have the major advertisers in their hands and influence or try to blackmail the media. This is why independent media are constantly struggling to survive financially, especially in the previous period when only a few selected media could get advertisers and thus cash the money. The pandemic has further aggravated the position of journalists. Wages go down and the cost of living goes up. As a result, many journalists leave the profession and take up other jobs that can give them a better existence. The best journalists leave, but what encourages me is that young people with great motivation come up to investigate and work in this field. Journalism, generally speaking, is in crisis and the profession of journalist is no longer as prestigious or remunerative as it once was.

Finally, how do you see the increasingly heated rhetoric relating to the enthronement of Metropolitan Joanikije in Cetinje? Does it have something to do with a series of events not favourable to the old regime: the new Council of the Prosecutor’s Office, the new management of the Radio-Television of Montenegro, the changes in the board of directors of Prva banka? Is President Dukanovic’s power crumbling?

There is some truth. But there is also great polarisation in society. And that is not good at all. The divisions are deepening. I have friends who have stopped talking to me because they think I have betrayed the nation. This is the atmosphere that brings water to the mill of those who have ruled Montenegro for 30 years. The consolidation of Montenegro and the implementation of the European agenda are not in the interest of the DPS. The only thing they can offer is vulgar nationalism. Serbian President Vucic, on the other hand, is blowing on the crisis trying to compensate for the loss of Kosovo with Montenegro and Republika Srpska. There are several big games going on that are not, at all, in the interest of the citizens of any country in the region, the problem is that we do not know how this is all going to turn out. I just hope the bad part of our recent history does not repeat itself.