Montenegro’s Vijesti suffers cyberattacks and fears violence

Montenegro’s independent news portal Vijesti has suffered a series of cyberattacks amid fears of renewed violence, as President Milo Djukanovic ramps up his campaign against critical media.

The Vijesti portal and daily have reported extensively on a fierce dispute between President Djukanovic and businessman and owner of the Atlas Group, Dusko Knezevic. The dispute centres on political donations from Mr Knezovic, the President’s former friend and business associate who is now in exile.

As the dispute has escalated, so too has the anti-independent media rhetoric, with President Djukanovic and government-aligned outlets targeting Vijesti for its reporting, labelling them a “media mafia” and “enemies of the state”. In April 2018, similar inflammatory remarks by the President and his supporters preceded the shooting and wounding of Vijesti journalist Olivera Lakic.

The verbal attacks have been accompanied by cyberattacks that attempted to overload Vijesti’s servers with up to 1 million requests per second. The cyberattacks forced the portal offline for a short time.

International institutions, embassies and press freedom organizations have been alerted. WAN-IFRA sent a letter protesting the attacks to President Djukanovic.

Over the past two decades, Vijesti and its staff have been subjected to bomb attacks, shootings, physical assaults and almost constant financial intimidation by President Djukanovic and his allies.

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