United Media (UM), the leading media company in Southeast Europe, has signed a letter of intent to purchase 51 per cent of the Montenegrin newspaper, portal and TV station Vijesti.
“This is great and significant news for all employees of Vijesti, for our audience and readers, and for all those who closely monitor media freedoms in the region and across Europe,” said the joint press release.
According to the letter of intent, UM, as a new shareholder, undertakes to respect and protect the editorial independence and autonomy of Vijesti. The editor-in-chief will continue to be elected on the proposal of the local co-owners as well as Media Development Investment Fund (MDIF), an investment fund based in New York that supports independent media and a long-term minority shareholder in Vijesti.
“All three platforms in the ‘Vijesti group’ have been exposed for almost a decade and a half to an existential threat, both by monopolists and nationalists, due to their commitment to freedom of expression and professional journalism,” said Professor Dr. Miodrag Perovic, one of the founders of Vijesti. “We are entering into a partnership with the UM Group with the conviction that this will give additional strength to our media because the liberal values and journalism that characterise the Vijesti group are being positioned in a wider circle loyal to these values,” he said.
Harlan Mandel, MDIF CEO, recognised this cooperation as an important strategic partnership between the two media houses, one that is founded on their brand value and rooted in the strength of their objective reporting. “Right now, Europe is seeing an epidemic of media capture, where private media outlets are taken over, while the media market in the Balkans continues to be extremely difficult for independent media outlets to launch and maintain sustainable business operations,” said Mr Mandel. “In this environment, the cooperation of the region’s two most influential brands recognised for their independent reporting is a welcome development, assuring that groundbreaking journalism will continue to be at the centre of Vijesti’s business model.”
“We have always been of the opinion that objective and independent journalism is a key factor in the development of society, and in that context we respect the work that Vijesti has done so far and the fact that they have for years resisted various pressures and are managing to do their job professionally,” said UM Executive Director Aleksandra Subotic. “We are looking forward to the future partnership and we believe that it will ensure that this media house experiences expansion in the coming period and that the quality content produced by Vijesti journalists reaches a wider audience.”
UM is the leading media company in Southeast Europe, operating in eight countries, with a portfolio of 55 television channels, including N1 and Nova TV, Danas and Nova dailies, as well as numerous radio stations.
MDIF is a not-for-profit investment fund that has been supporting independent media in the region for 25 years. MDIF holds a minority stake in Vijesti media.