The International Press Institute (IPI), a global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists for press freedom, today condemned the detention of Montenegrin journalist Veliša Kadić and called on authorities to ensure media workers can cover protests freely and securely.
Kadić, a correspondent for the Serbian media company Večernje Novosti, was detained while covering protests in the city of Nikšić that occurred on May 13 in response to the arrest of a priest belonging to the Serbian Orthodox Church.
After being released from custody, the journalist told media he was detained while taking a cellphone video of police officers trying to restrain a young man participating in protest who was resisting arrest.
Kadić claims officers from the Montenegrin police force demanded he delete the video footage and then pepper sprayed him in the face before arresting him. During the incident, Kadić was identified as a journalist there in his professional capacity.
He was taken to a police station but required an ambulance to be called for medical assistance due to the pain from the pepper spray. Kadić was held for several hours before being released later that night.
“This is a harsh violation and censorship of journalist’s work, which is, unfortunately, only an extension of brutal behavior of public authorities towards journalists and media freedom in this country”, Milka Tadić Mijović, director of the Center for Investigative Journalism in Montenegro, told IPI.
The head of the Nikšić Security Center, Tihomir Goranović, said he was aware of the case and confirmed police were investigating the circumstances of the arrest and the officers involved.
The arrest exemplifies a wider trend exhibiting increased use of violence against journalists covering protests in Europe in the last few months.
“The arrest of Veliša Kadić in Montenegro is greatly concerning, especially at a moment in which we are witnessing similar incidents happening all across Europe”, IPI Deputy Director Scott Griffen said. “We call on authorities in Montenegro to ensure that all journalists and media workers are able to work freely and inform the public about protests or demonstrations without fear of attack or detention.”
The Association of Journalists of Serbia (UNS) also condemned the arrest and called for action to be taken against the officers involved.
Dozens of people were arrested as police attempted to break up the demonstration, according to Montenegrin daily newspaper Vijesti. Twenty-two police officers were also injured.