The International Press Institute (IPI), a global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists for press freedom, today condemned the recent physical attack which injured Montenegrin journalist Sead Sadiković and called on authorities to ensure that those responsible are prosecuted.
During the attack on March 20, the well-known journalist for Vijesti Television was threatened and then assaulted by a group of five or six people carrying Montenegrin flags who were attending a patriotic rally in the north-western town of Bijelo Polje, his employer reported.
A spokeswoman from the Basic State Prosecutor’s Office confirmed that the attack happened at around 8.10pm as a convoy of vehicles displaying national flags was driving through the town centre.
Police confirmed that two men had been arrested on suspicion of carrying out the attack and inflicting minor bodily injuries, according to media reports.
IPI Deputy Director Scott Griffen welcomed the swift arrest of two suspects but stressed that a thorough and professional investigation was needed to ensure that those responsible faced prosecution.
“We strongly condemn this unacceptable assault, which was an attack on both a well-known journalist and on press freedom in Montenegro”, he said. “The announcement by police of swift arrests is a welcome development, which must now be followed by a thorough investigation and ultimately the prosecution of those involved.
“One of the central elements on Montenegro’s path to EU accession is improving the climate for the safety of journalists and ensuring that those responsible for carrying out attacks on the press face justice. All too often, such cases do not end up with convictions. We hope this case can be a step in the right direction for changing that trend under the new administration.
“We also praise the quick condemnation of the violence by both the prime minister and president. For this and every other attack and threat, the country’s political leadership have a responsibility to make it clear that physical attacks which endanger the safety of journalists are always unacceptable.”
Griffen added that IPI and its partners in the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) would continue to monitor the case to ensure that Montenegro upholds its international commitments to protecting media freedom.
One of the main issues raised after the press freedom mission to Montenegro by the MFRR last year was ending impunity for crimes against journalists and media workers by ensuring police and prosecutors investigate all threats and bring perpetrators to justice.
According to analysis by the Commission for Monitoring Investigations of Attacks on Journalists, since 2004 there have been more than 85 attacks on journalists and media workers in Montenegro.
The MFRR report found these attacks are often compounded by inadequate and flawed investigations, which have fostered a climate of impunity, in which inaction or inadequate actions by the authorities has acted as implicit support for further attacks.
Sadiković told TV Vijesti that he was assaulted by five or six men, one of whom hit him with a Montenegrin flag, and that onlookers had stepped in to break up the attack.
He was found by police with visible injuries and was taken for medical treatment after giving a statement at the local police station. Analysis of video surveillance footage in the area by police is currently underway.
Sadiković was observing the rally in a professional capacity at the time and is well-known for a critical weekly show on TV Vijesti and for his reporting on corruption and organized crime in Montenegro.
The journalist has faced attack because of his work in the past. In April 2018, he survived a car bomb explosion in front of the home which police believed was a targeted threat.
The convoy in Bijelo Polje was one of many happening in different locations across the country that evening that were reportedly made up of supporters of the Democratic Party of Socialists, according to media reports.
The Association of Professional Journalists of Montenegro condemned the attack and said that “all those who have been fuelling tensions in Montenegro for months” were partly responsible.
The attack was also denounced by Prime Minister Zdravko Krivokapić and Deputy Prime Minister Dritan Abazovic. Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic also condemned the attack on Twitter, stating that “violence is not a sign of recognition of European and cultural Montenegro”.
The head of the Delegation of the European Union to Montenegro, Oana Kristina Popa, said: “All journalists in Montenegro must be able to do their job without fear of violence, harassment and intimidation. That is a key part of the road to the EU. No excuses, no exceptions.”
This statement by IPI is 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.