The World Press Freedom Day this year is marked in circumstances which clearly demonstrate why, more than ever, freedom of the press is a cornerstone of democratic societies, which can thrive only if citizens have access to reliable information and can make informed choices.

The Covid-19 pandemic has shown just how risky and difficult the work of journalists can be and just how dedicated journalists are when it comes to bringing timely and accurate information to all of us. In times of uncertainty, more than ever, access to reliable fact-checked information, that is free from undue interference and influence, is crucial and contributes to a more resilient society.

“While the world is fighting the Covid-19 pandemic, we face another global pandemic, that of disinformation and fake news. We must counter this dangerous phenomenon with equal determination and strength. I would like to pay tribute to Montenegrin journalists who have delivered tremendous work in extraordinary circumstances over the past months, providing accurate, timely and checked information to all of us,” said EU Ambassador Aivo Orav.

While extending thanks to the media for a job well done, the EU Delegation would like to emphasise that neither the pandemic situation, nor any other circumstance, shall be used as a pretext for imposing undue restrictions on freedom of the press and freedom of expression.

“On World Press Freedom day, we must once again stress the importance of improving professional standards in media reporting as well as the need to create an enabling environment where media freedom cannot be abused or curtailed”, said Ambassador Orav.

The EU is continuously monitoring the state of media freedom, as an integral element of Montenegro’s EU accession negotiations. Our assessment will be published, as every year, in the EU annual report on Montenegro, which is due in late spring this year. While it is positive there have been fewer cases of attacks against journalism in 2020, we would like to recall that last year’s report pointed specifically to the fact that Montenegro needed to better guarantee the safety of its journalists and step up efforts in investigating cases of attacks against media professionals. The report also pointed to the need to ensure the financial and editorial independence of all media and media regulatory bodies as well as to support the establishment of effective self-regulatory mechanisms.

The EU Delegation takes particular interest in the challenging circumstances in which Montenegrin media operate, which has been further exacerbated by the Covid-19 crisis. “The EU is supporting the Montenegrin media through various programmes including the Media Professionalism Programme, under which five projects worth one million Euros are currently operational. We will continue to stand on the side of free and independent journalism in Montenegro and will explore further options to help the media overcome the consequences of the pandemic,” stressed Ambassador Orav.

I would like to recall that media freedom is a right, not just of media professionals, but of each and every one of us. We must devote all our efforts to protect it,” concluded Ambassador Orav.