Montenegro: Media Legislation

International Standards

Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948)

Within the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the General Assembly of the United Nations proclaimed the:

Right to freedom of opinion and expression: Article 19 Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966)

The resolution 2200A (XXI) of 16 December 1966 adopted by the General Assembly came into force on the 10th of September 1978. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights was ratified by Montenegro on 23 October 2006. It states:

Article 19

  1. Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference.
  2. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.
  3. The exercise of the rights provided for in paragraph 2 of this article carries with it special duties and responsibilities. It may therefore be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary:
    (a)    For respect of the rights or reputations of others;
    (b)   For the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public   health or morals.

Article 20

  1. Any propaganda for war shall be prohibited by law.
  2. Any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law.

European Regional Agreements

Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms

Section 1: Rights and Freedoms

Article 10: Freedom of Expression

  1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.
  2. The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.

Constitution

The Constitution of Montenegro provides for freedom of expression and of the press. Article 47 of the constitution specifically refers to freedom of expression stating that:

“Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression by speech, writing, picture or in some other manner.

The right to freedom of expression may be limited only by the right of others to dignity, reputation and honor and if it threatens public morality or the security of Montenegro”.

Article 49, instead, specifically provides for freedom of the press:

“Freedom of press and other forms of public information shall be guaranteed. The right to establish newspapers and other public information media, without approval, by registration with the competent authority, shall be guaranteed. The right to a response and the right to a correction of any untrue, incomplete or incorrectly conveyed information that violates a person’s right or interest and the right to compensation of damage caused by the publication of untruthful data or information shall be guaranteed”.

Laws

The Media Law sets the framework in which all the media operate. It regulates the press sector and allows for the formation of new print media. The main principle of the law, expressed in Article 1, is that media shall be free and censorship is prohibited. The law also guarantees “the right of free founding and undisturbed work of media based on: the freedom of expression; freedom of investigation, collection, dissemination, publicizing and receiving information; free access to all sources of information” (Article 2).

The Broadcasting Law provides for freedom of expression stating that:

“Montenegro guarantees the right to free establishment and undisturbed operation of media based on: freedom of expression, freedom of investigation, collection, dissemination, and publication of information, as well as free access to all information sources, protection of man’s personality, dignity, and the free flow of information”.

The Broadcasting Law regulates the conduct of broadcasting activities in the country in compliance with international standards. The law also established a Broadcasting Agency (which has been replaced by the Agency for Electronic Media) as an independent regulatory body with the tasks of adopting the Broadcasting Development Strategy; issuing licenses for the transmission and broadcasting of radio and TV signals; and monitoring compliance with broadcasting standards.

Public service broadcasting was modified by the Law on public service broadcasting (full text here) which abolished the steering committee of the Radio Television Montenegro (RTCG) and gave its powers to the RTCG Council. The public broadcasting is only partially financed by the State, which contributes to its budget with funding of 1.2% of the country’s operational budget (the funding mechanism is described in Article 16). Members of the RTCG Council – the public service’s main decisional body – are appointed by the Parliament (see Article 27 of the Law).

The Freedom of Information Act was adopted in July 2012. It guarantees to every citizen the right to access information held by public bodies, public companies and other entities performing public powers. The concerned authorities must reply within 15 working days. In case of emergencies, if the reason for requesting information is vital, authorities can reply within 48 hours.

The law also allows for some exemptions, limiting access to information for reasons of national security; defense or international relations; public safety; commercial and economic subjects; and the prevention and investigation of criminal matters. According to the law, limitations can be enforced only if the interest protected by the law would be “significantly harmed” by the diffusion of the information.

Newspapers registration’s process is monitored by the Ministry of Culture which simply keeps a record of every registered company, without having to issue licenses.

The Law on Electronic Media was approved in 2010. The law mainly regulates “the rights, duties and responsibilities of legal and natural persons pursuing the activities of production and provision of audiovisual media services”.

The law defines the nature of audiovisual media services and states that they should be governed by principles such as of freedom, prohibition of any form of censure, objectivity and transparency. The law also concerns electronic publications and states that they must be registered with the Agency for Electronic Media (Article 125).

This agency is established by the Law on Electronic Media as an independent audiovisual media service regulatory body (Article 10). It provides information on how the agency is composed and how it functions (for more info see the Regulatory Bodies section).

Article 47 of the law guarantees the right of correction and reply to information published through an audio visual media service and states that it should follow conditions defined by the law governing media.

The law also provides for the establishment of a public broadcaster (Article 75) and defines its funding (Article 76). Part of the funding comes from the general revenues of the Budget of Montenegro.

Chapter IV of the law concerns the provision of licenses, defining ways in which licenses can be attributed (for example through a public competition, Article 99) and also how can they be revoked.

Article 131 of the law contains provisions related to media concentration and specifically lists cases in which concentration exists. Article 132 list cases in which media concentration is unlawful. For example when a broadcaster holding a license for national coverage broadcasting holds a stake in the founding capital of another broadcaster with such license with more than 25% share of capital or voting rights.

A procedure of complaint against the operation of an audiovisual service provider is established by the law at Article 144.

The Law on Digital Broadcasting was approved in 2011 to regulate methods and conditions for digital terrestrial broadcasting as well as the procedure of switchover from analogue to digital broadcasting.

Defamation and libel have been decriminalized as a result of a reform in 2011. They still remain civil offences and sanctions can include fines of thousands of Euros. According to the Law on Amnesty, approved in June 2012, the President has the right to grant a pardon for individuals convicted of defamation and insult. These legal provisions have contributed to reducing the number of lawsuits against the media.

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