Berlin, January 13, 2020 — Montenegrin authorities should immediately drop charges against Dražen Živković and Gojko Raičević and cease pursuing criminal cases against journalists, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Yesterday, police in Podgorica, the capital, summoned and detained Živković, an editor for local news website Borba, and Raičević, an editor for local news website IN4S, according to reports from each outlet. Police arrested the journalists on suspicion of inciting public panic and disorder after their websites reported an explosion yesterday in a villa used by government officials, according to a report by regional news website Balkan Insight.
Today, authorities charged Živković and Raičević with criminal incitement and released them pending trial, according to reports by IN4S and Borba. If convicted, they could each face a fine or a prison sentence of up to one year, according to Montenegro’s criminal code.
“Montenegrin authorities must immediately drop all criminal charges against journalists Dražen Živković and Gojko Raičević,” said CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, Gulnoza Said, in New York. “Journalists should not face criminal charges for their work; authorities should seek civil remedies, and reform Montenegro’s criminal incitement laws.”
Both outlets had reported that there had been an explosion at the government villa; police later said there had been an electrical failure there, but disputed IN4S and Borba’s reports, according to Balkan Insight.
According to that report, police had previously arrested Raičević and Živković in October 2015 while they were covering protests.
CPJ emailed the Montenegrin state prosecutor’s office for comment but did not immediately receive a reply.
Last week, Montenegrin authorities filed similar criminal incitement charges against Anđela Đikanović, former editor-in-chief of the local news website FOS, over a report that was later retracted, as CPJ reported at the time.