May 21, 2019 - Ratka Jovanović Vukotić is a columnist of the daily newspaper Vijesti and a one of the five-member committee that initiated the movement ODUPRISE. We spoke with the experienced Montenegrin journalist about the influence of the media on the situation in society, the opposition's actions in the context of civil protests, and the perspectives of the fundamental changes citizens are advocating
- How is media in Montenegro professional in presenting the real situation in society? Is the responsibility for public media services at the center of control and power, or a part of the responsibility of the journalists themselves? Is it the position of some international organizations that the media scene in Montenegro is like reporting from the war zones?
"Montenegrin media collapsed together with Montenegrin society, but this is primarily the fault of journalists. It had to be a matter of choice, as well as freedom, but it costs a lot, especially in an autocratic regime like ours. An honorable journalist does not agree that he is lying in any system, wherever he lives and whatever pressures he has been exposed to, especially not for a hundred or two hundred euros higher salary.
The breaking point for the collapse of Montenegrin journalism was the so-called AB revolution and the upcoming war because of which it was organized. Those who held to themselves chose freedom and truth. Most of the journalists, unfortunately, agreed to lie, cheat, spread hatred, and magnify the evil. The majority of the regime allowed for decades to train new generations of journalists, and now we are at the bottom. In fact, below the bottom, because the fact that several free media is still alive is no comfort.
After thirty years of cutting down, it will take at least a bit more than journalism until our country returns to the initial level, which was not particularly high anyway. Provided that journalism as a profession survives, it seems to me that anyone who knows the alphabet will soon become a journalist.
The editorial policy of the RTCG is dangerous to all residents of Montenegro since the 1990s, and the two short-term attempts at liberation did not change that. Any government, even it is relatively tolerant, wants to influence the image that the public media service broadcasts about it. At the same time, every journalist, also the relatively professional, has to resist it severely. Otherwise - they are not a journalist.
This type of rebellion is implied, for it is a high price paid in a society like ours, but public services without free and moral journalists are not possible. The Council can decide what it wants; the director can order whatever he wants- it is enough that only thirty journalists, organized through their screen, publicly rebel - this mastodon will collapse from the ground. Unfortunately, this has never happened. And he will not. If this regime ever falls, the so-called Public service will, in the same composition, continue to be a servant to some new authority which, of course, will answer.
- The movement ODUPRISE, in addition to the resignations of the system's leaders, requires and resigns the director and management of the Public Service RTCG. At the same time, the Public Service initially ignored and minimized the movement, and was subsequently very biased, protecting the interests of the clique in power, reporting on the protests and other activities of ODUPRISE leaders. What about the rest of the media scene?
How the so-called Public service reported on the protests of citizens, because of which there is a public service in every normal country, its administration explained the best. On several occasions, it has been publicly announced that RTCG is defending - the state?! From who? The citizens who are the state, who give tens of millions of euros a year to hear full and valid information, and who receive a billboard for advertising the president, the government, and the DPS?!
In the report from the first protest, they agreed that the opposition organized it, although some of the parties publicly insulted the organizers and common sense, while the rest publicly announced that they did not know anything about the ODUPRISE movement. In the meantime, the so-called Public service has so far trapped itself in nebulous constructions; now we are listening to their cracks that are less crowded in the street. I do not understand, do they want citizens now? When there were 20,000 on the street, they claimed that we were 5,000. When 5,000 come out, they're concerned that there's a small number. Who is guilty? In the first place- journalists. Report live from the protests, have the opportunity, to tell the truth, not what the editor ordered, and why not do it - ask them. If the reason is fear, then let them greet journalism.
How do others report? Those I follow are doing it professionally, especially Vijesti and Dan, although, strict as I am, I am finding faults also there. Reporting of In4S is also correct, but in the columns, there is firing at the protest organizers. I have no right to object, I am a journalist from the old generation, and I respect the rule that the facts are sacred, and the comment is free. Weekly Monitor is, as always, on the side of freedom.
- Is your assessment that ODRRISE, having joined a common platform with opposition political entities, lost part of the support of citizens, and received support from some new ones? Is the Agreement on the future the key to ensuring the essential unity of the opposition over common goals?
I will answer you in my name. The Agreement on the future has also benefited both Montenegro and the Montenegrin opposition, but not to the movement ODUPRISE. I'm not surprised, the experience from the LSCG has taught me caution not only when it comes to power, but also the opposition. In the beginning, I wanted to establish cooperation with the opposition as late as possible, to organize the protests alone as much as possible, knowing that the changes will not begin before autumn. My friends prayed not to spread pessimism, but I was just realistic.
Euphoria, spreading over the unexpectedly sudden but anticipated temporary mass of protests, has made many citizens naively think how crime and corruption that have been built into the system for 30 years can be demolished in three months. Referring to some radicalization, part of the opposition contributed to it.
What is radical - let's call the president to resign for 15 nights, so that he will be shaken and so emotional to decide to go? Should we fall into the Assembly and do the same thing that this government did 30 years ago? Or shoot the prosecutor with eggs or onions?
In no way, we - among other things - resist the advanced Montenegrin primitivism. We are fighting for necessary changes to the system as a whole, and resignations are just the way to that. That's why I continue to argue that persistence and perseverance on peaceful protests are far more important than mass.
To return to the Agreement on the Future- I accepted the position of the majority in the Organizing Committee when I saw that the party members systematically joined the Street. It was clear to me that no further cooperation was possible with the opposition, but I did not expect much from it or the Agreement.
I was hoping that the Agreement would not be misunderstood at all, but it was. After the signing of the Agreement on stage, the number of citizens in protest halved. In addition to forcing The Day to radicalization, this Agreement on the cooperation of ODUPRISE with the opposition was an additional cause of the fall in energy and the number of demonstrators.
Citizens interpreted the Agreement as a definitive unification of the opposition and the movement, although it only refers to tasks in the struggle to the same goal. Later, it turned out that not every party has the same intense, but it is an old and already told story.
- Already at the beginning of the ODUPRISE campaign, you highlighted what everyone ought to be aware that the fight will not be easy and requires the persistence of the citizens so that the desired changes come. In your opinion, is ODUPRISE already generating positive changes in Montenegro?
The goal of the ODUPRISE movement is from the beginning a system change, which the communists would say - from upgrading to the base. In addition to autocracy, robbery, theft of electoral choice, corruption, crime, there are many more severe problems. The upgrade completely infected the base by spreading the idea that everything was allowed, that laws could be selectively applied. And to such an extent that, in addition to a radical change in the system, a fundamental shift in consciousness is necessary. Something like returning to "factory settings."
See how the authorities are formed in municipalities, even when the opposition wins. Five director positions in public companies, four in managing boards, two in secretariats, and then all of them are hiring their own and at lower levels. Why, when they fought against it? Because those who voted them consider it quite natural for them to get something for the vote - privileges, jobs, money, whatever.
For basic system and awareness changes, it will take at least 30 years. The movement ODUPRISE did what it did - it called on citizens to resist, wake up tired energy, and spread hope that changes are possible, send messages that everything depends on us, that no one from the side will help us if we do not help ourselves. We gathered in the same street; thousands of people who were separated for decades, and we were able to bring all the opposition parties and all opposition MPs to the same place.
From the beginning, we have been exposed to filthy bastards and lies, primarily the authorities and its services, not to mention the others. The so-called intellectual elite did not favor us, some of its honorable exceptions only confirmed the majority. The big problem was there, and there remained money for the stage, sound, and other technical issues. We already owe six to seven thousand euros, which we will have to return from our pockets because part of the opposition has long stopped supporting the protests both in money and on the street.
Are we satisfied with the results – no, we're not. Have we done everything we could - we have. Anyone who thinks they can do more, better and faster, is welcome to join ODUPRISE. It is worth fighting for a better Montenegro as long as there are young rebels, like Jelena, two Mladen, Nikola, Slavisa, Dragan. If not for them, maybe after 30 years, I would have raised my hands from the liberation of people who would rather bear the burden of slavery than take the responsibility that freedom brings.
- How do you evaluate the attitude of international organizations and member states of the international community towards the movement of citizens that appeared in Montenegro?
If I present everything that I think about the policy of the West towards anyone and anything in Montenegro, I will close all doors to the ODUPRISE movement, which are just a bit open anyway. Therefore, only briefly: for 1423 days, I watched the burning of Sarajevo, from the so-called international community I do not expect anything!