The Center for Investigative Reporting, in cooperation with Monitor Monitor and Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, organized a conference, which included the process of European integration, media freedom and chapter 27, all within the project for media research “Stop 2 READ” (Regional Acts Devastations). The conference was held on March 22, 2019 at the “Center Ville” Hotel in Podgorica. Numerous members of the NGO sector and journalists’ houses took part in the conference, with the presence of the heads of the EU Delegation and members of environmental and environmental organizations.
The conference program consisted of an introductory section and four panels, or four main topics of the conference.
The introductory speech was given by Milka Tadić Mijović, who at the very beginning of the presentation emphasized that it was the duty of all to protect natural resources.
The conference was opened by Aivo Orav, head of the European Union Delegation to Montenegro, who at the beginning of the presentation thanked for the opportunity to address everyone present as an EU representative. Environmental protection is one of the main factors in the process of EU integration, Orav said, and expressed satisfaction with the large number of journalists and members of organizations from the region responding to the conference, in order to exchange thoughts about media freedom in this context. Large reforms, serious investments, a more strategic view are needed to protect the environment, he said. He added that the role of the media and civil society is as important as the governments and ministries. He praised the numerous actions in the region and Montenegro that were done in order to prevent devastation and endangering the environment. He also emphasized that the project “Stop 2 READ” is extremely useful and important, as it is the true example of how cooperation between civil society and the media works. It is pleased to say that the EU is proud of this project and will be pleased to finance projects similar to this. After that, he explained why media freedom and access to information in this context are an extremely important item. Journalists who investigate stories about devastation of the environment and their contaminants must be protected and must have normal working conditions, Orav said. He added that raising public awareness is one of the key tasks for protecting the environment. In the end, he emphasized that access to information is an extremely important item and that it is itself the core of the fundamental human rights, which are prescribed in the EU member. He called for everything to get involved in the discussion, and also urged the EU to continue to support projects in this field.
After him, Ivana Vojinovic, Director General of the Environment Directorate, spoke. At the very beginning of the presentation, she expressed her satisfaction with the fact that such a conference was held with the aim of realizing a public debate and discussion on this very important issue for the citizens of Montenegro through strengthening the role of research journalism in the field of environment. She emphasized at such meetings and only as important to all stakeholders in various areas of environmental protection, because they are a good opportunity for conflicting attitudes and information exchange. The role of the media in the field of environmental protection is of great importance because citizens want to know about the quality of the water they drink, the air they inhabit, the quality of the land on which fruit and vegetables are planted, the use of common natural resources and other issues, Vojinovic said. Media reporting on ecology and activities in the areas covered by negotiation chapter 27 is very important for the time ahead, she stressed. She added that it is a chapter that is by many parameters, one of the most difficult and financially most demanding in the negotiation process. She stressed that as part of the negotiations, she will try to negotiate the most favorable conditions for Montenegro, which will be directed towards raising environmental standards, with the ultimate goal of new processes in this area, improving the conditions of public health and the purchasing quality of the citizens of Montenegro , as well as the competitiveness of our economy in attracting high-quality investments. She emphasized, finally, that the rehabilitation of four black ecological points in Montenegro is of crucial importance: the aluminum plant, Podgorica; thermal power plant Pljevlja; Mine “Hollow rock” and the shipyard Bijela.
Following the presentation by Ivana Vojinović, Jovana Janjušević, executive director of the Center for Protection and Research (CZIP), also spoke about the importance of preserving the ecological health of potentially endangered habitats of rare bird species in Montenegro.
After her, Vuk Ikovic, ecologist in front of the organization KOD, also spoke about the burning ecological problems in Montenegro and their rehabilitation. He also cited a number of examples from developing countries and made a comparison with the same in Montenegro, where he emphasized that Montenegro has an extremely bad attitude towards natural assets and resources.
Janjušević and Iković closed the Panel 1 conference.
After that, in adherence to Panel 2 on the process of European integration and media freedom in the region spoke Marija Ristic, director of the Balkan Research Regional Network (BIRN), said that media freedom has never been enviable in the region and that we are experiencing a decline in trends, and three are the main ones: non-transparent media ownership, the state as the owner of the media and the biggest problem, in its opinion, are online media, due to attacks on the media on the line, and the legal regulations are almost nonexistent and most of the attacks have not been processed. Pauline Ades-Mevel, Director of the Office for Europe and the Balkans, entitled “Reporters Without Borders”, talked about attacks on journalists that are taking place in Montenegro, as well as in the region, as well as in countries that have long been members of the European Union. She emphasized that it is very important to provide safe conditions for the work and life of journalists who want transparency and freedom of speech through access to information and legitimate journalism. She was followed by Slavoljub Scekic, editor-in-chief of CIN-CG. He talked about journalists in general in the region, about the profession, about the influence on journalists and the influence of journalists on society in terms of environmental literacy. He criticized the law on the secrecy of data, which is being drafted, which, as he said, is rigid, and that this law will lead to negative consequences and raise an even bigger wall, that journalists can not get information. He concluded that the way to Brussels shortened, thus narrowing down journalistic freedoms and, consequently, journalistic freedoms.
Within the Panels 3, which deals with the topic Chapter 27 – the role of civil society organizations and the media, the first one was Dragan Gmizić, a journalist and civil activist, who spoke about his documentary films and through various documentary sequences showed the irresponsibility and carelessness of the workers who are employed in various companies for the protection of animals, as well as natural resources. After him, Zenepa Leka, the vice president of the association dr. Martin Schneider Jakobi. She spoke about the successful revitalization of salt water and its area and considers that this project is a good indicator of how to deal with the environment and stressed that in the same way the further devastation of Ada Bojana should be prevented in the same way. To conclude the discussion on the topic from the third panel, Milena Perovic Korać, executive director of the weekly Monitor, spoke. Perovic spoke about essential matters for the media and the way in which the Government of Montenegro deals with them.
For the very end of the conference, Brankica Petkovic, program director, Peace Institute from Slovenia, and Gudrun Elisabeth Steinacker, former ambassador in Montenegro, spoke. They spoke within the final panel of the discussion, ie Panel 4 on environmental protection and freedom of the media, a view from the corner of the EU. Both agreed that necessary steps should be taken in the area of Montenegro, as well as the region, to protect the environment, which will lead to the balance of natural resources, as well as the importance of media literacy and its impact on raising awareness of the citizens of Montenegro and the region.