Hostility towards independent media in Montenegro grows

Hostility towards independent media in Montenegro is growing once again, with the Vijesti daily and web portal being subjected to cyberattacks, abuse by government-aligned media and other intimidation.

Since President Milo Djukanovic filed a libel lawsuit against Vijesti and businessman Dusko Knezevic last year over claims that he took bribes, there has been a growing pattern of intimidation.

The Vijesti web portal has been the victim of a series of increasingly sophisticated cyberattacks that have threatened the integrity of the site. In early February, it suffered its most serious attack to date, with external IT experts determining that the attack was of such size and complexity that it would have required tens of thousands of dollars of funding to conduct. The cyberattacks appear to be carefully orchestrated and seek to force the Vijesti portal offline at times when it is publishing reporting on high-level corruption in the ruling party. Although Vijesti has reported the attacks to the authorities, none has been effectively investigated.

Also in early February, the daily Dnevne novine, which is closely aligned with the ruling party, published a malicious attack on Vijesti’s editorial independence, accusing it of blindly criticising the President, promoting the Serbian Orthodox Church and being an enemy of Montenegrin independence. Shortly before the article was published another supporter of the President claimed that Vijesti was the publisher of ‘Greater Serbian nationalist propaganda’.

On several previous occasions, supporters of President Djukanovic have used inflammatory language to create an atmosphere in which physical attacks on Vijesti and its staff became possible.

Over the past decade, Vijesti has suffered dozens of attacks, including the shooting of investigative journalist Olivera Lakić and a bomb attack on the daily’s offices. No one who ordered any of these attacks has been brought to justice.

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