Calling for effective accountability in all cases of violence against journalists, the United Nations independent expert on the right to freedom of expression today urged Montenegro to set up an inclusive mechanism to resolve and prevent cases of attacks against reporters and media outlets.
“Insecurity will prevail as long as cases of attack against journalists and media property remain unresolved, said Frank La Rue, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, declaring: “The impunity of well-known cases of violence against journalists is unacceptable.”
Just back from a five day visit to Montenegro, he said that while steps were taken to respond to recent episodes of violence, there is still a need to ensure the effective conclusion to all outstanding cases, while preventing further recurrence of such lapses.
“Montenegro should establish a special mechanism to coordinate State efforts to protect journalists, and the rapid investigation of offences,” Mr. La Rue said, adding that such a mechanism must include not only representatives of the police and justice systems, but also representatives of the media and human rights organizations.
While stressing that the State must ensure the complete independence of the media, he said that the media itself is responsible for maintaining high standards of professionalism. “The Montenegrin media can, and must, do more to ensure better standards of quality in journalism.”
The Special Rapporteur urged the media to ensure high professional and ethical standards through voluntary self-regulation. “I was surprised by the extreme polarization among media representatives. It is very unfortunate that efforts to establish a single self-regulatory body have so far produced very limited results,” he said, underscoring that openness to self-evaluation and criticism are essential components of professionalism and maturity for any form of media.
Mr. La Rue commended Montenegro for its recent work in improving its national legal framework for freedom of expression. “The decriminalization of defamation was crucial for aligning national laws to international standards,” he said, also noting that improvements to the laws on Public Broadcasting Services, Electronic Media and Access to Information represent important additional steps.
“Attention must now be paid to ensure they are fully implemented into practice by authorities and the justice system,” he said.
During his visit to the country, Mr. La Rue met with senior Government officials, including the Prime Minister, members of judiciary and legislative bodies, representatives of civil society, lawyers, human rights defenders, and journalists.
Independent experts, or special rapporteurs, are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back, in an unpaid capacity, on specific human rights themes. He will present his findings and recommendations in a report to the Council in June 2014.