Status: Partly Free
Legal Environment: 11 (of 30)
Political Environment: 16 (of 40)
Economic Environment: 10 (of 30)
Total Score: 37 (of 100)
(Lower scores = freer)

The constitution of the newly independent state of Montenegro guarantees freedom of the press, but in practice the government has been known to restrict this right and interfere in the work of media outlets. Libel is punishable by fines of up to US$18,400, and frequent lawsuits against journalists threaten to encourage self-censorship. A Podgorica court in February and April dismissed a libel case brought by the minister of education against the opposition daily Dan. The administration accused several media outlets of unprofessional reporting and inciting nationalist sentiment ahead of the May referendum on independence from the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro and the September parliamentary elections. In September, a Podgorica court fined a Dan columnist for ridiculing those who voted for independence. The television broadcaster Elmag was fined for airing viewer text messages mocking different ethnic groups. The members of the Radio and Television Council (RTVCG), the body that oversees the national broadcast media, are appointed by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and professional groups. The Parliament twice rejected NGO nominations for RTVCG members in 2006, leading observers to speculate that the Parliament was seeking to influence the council. The regulatory body in charge of issuing broadcast licenses is independent from the government.

The media are active and express diverse views. There is no direct censorship, although certain government actions in 2006 suggested that officials were seeking to maintain a moderate level of control over major national media outlets. In January, a new television director was appointed by the director general of the public Radio and Television of Montenegro; the previous television director had been dismissed in 2005, and critics pointed out that the new appointee was a close government ally. Media are at times highly politicized and reflect the divisive nature of the Montenegrin Parliament, which remains split between pro-union and pro-independence factions. Although the ruling party received more airtime than the opposition, most media acted professionally during the politically sensitive referendum and elections. There were a few reports of harassment and violence directed at journalists. In October, a political novelist was beaten and his bodyguard was shot dead. The 2005 murder of Dan director and editor, Dusko Jovanovic, remained unresolved, and in December, a man accused of participating in the killing was acquitted.

The print media are privately owned, with the exception of one major national newspaper that is still state owned. The privatization process for that paper stalled in 2006. There are no restrictions on advertising or distribution, although smaller media outlets struggle to attract advertising and reach rural areas. There are a number of privately owned radio and television stations in addition to the public broadcasters, and Montenegrin stations routinely rebroadcast foreign content. There are no restrictions on the internet, with 17 percent of the population able to access this new medium in 2006.

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