Government to unblock RTCG contracts and show that it works in public, and not party interest

The Government of Montenegro has significantly caused problems which the RTCG faces over the last period through institutional mechanisms at its disposal, demonstrating in this way that it primarily protects the party, or more precisely, interests of the ruling Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) and not the public interest.

Namely, the Government has been blocking for months the signing of the Government and RTCG Contract on the provision of public broadcasting services 2018-2020, which is the obligation resulting from the latest amendments to the Law on Public Broadcasting RTCG. This is followed by attempts by the Government to include through this contract obligations that are not imposed by similar contracts to any other public broadcaster in democratic countries, and by which the Government would also formally annul the independence of the public broadcaster by taking over what falls under the remit of the RTCG Council.

Also, the Government refuses to adopt the RTCG collective agreement. The agreement, which the RTCG management submitted to the Government for approval four months ago, received a positive opinion from the Ministry of Finance, but the Ministry of Culture does not want to propose signing to the Government because it is supposedly waiting for the adoption of a new Labor Law, for which no one knows yet when it will be adopted by the Parliament of Montenegro. This rational is unknown in practices of well-organized democratic states, because it leads to complete legal uncertainty and thus undermines the rule of law foundations.

Through the blockade of these two contracts, the Government exerts political pressure on the RTCG dissatisfied that the public broadcaster is not a party media and that it has made first, small steps towards transformation into a true public broadcaster in the service of all citizens.

In addition, its functionary in charge, General Director of the Directorate for Media, Željko Rutović, through his public appearances on media close to the authorities, fully uncovers the government’s action against the current RTCG leadership. Otherwise, Rutović had no reaction to numerous examples of unprofessional and illegal reporting of the media that now serve him as a megaphone against RTCG, nor did he have any objections to the work of RTCG when it was headed by his sister, and when RTCG recorded far greater number of complaints about reporting and far less trust among citizens of Montenegro.

Finally, it is worth looking into the arguments of senior government officials that they make in communication with the representatives of the most influential institutions and the EU and NATO member states. They claim that the public broadcaster does not reflect the majority views in Montenegro, which best illustrates to what extent the authorities do not understand the concept of freedom of the media and public broadcasters. Public broadcasting management is not elected in the elections with a reason – because reporting of public broadcaster by its mission and law should reflect pluralism of opinion and not ruling party attitudes.

Also, the Government strategy to not send its top representatives to the most viewed RTCG TV shows in the form of dialogue is futile. With this, the Prime Minister and members of the Government who respect such party stance show that party for them is above the obligation towards the public to report on their work and to exchange their arguments with persons of different opinions. A logical continuation of such strategy is the recent call to the Agency for the Prevention of Corruption (ASK) to reexamine its decisions on the basis of anonymous submissions against members of the RTCG Council. In this way, the Government undertakes improper attempt to influence, now ASK, as an independent institution by the law. It is also possible that the goal of this alleged appeal is that ASK protects the remaining members of the RTCG Council against whom misdemeanor proceedings were also initiated but who now support the government positions.

Therefore, we call on the Government to unblock contracts with RTCG and that its top members, in accordance with their obligations to the public, expose their work to public criticism through appearances at the RTCG rather than continue harming the public interest by following the party stand.

Ana Novaković, Executive Director, Centre for Development of Non-Governmental Organizations (CDNGO)
Daliborka Uljarević, Executive Director, Centre for Civic Education (CCE)
Stevo Muk, President of MB, Institute alternative (IA)
Zlatko Vujović, President of MB, Centre for Monitoring and Research (CEMI)

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