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Environmental protection is one of the most challenging portfolios of the EU accession process, it requires serious reforms, solid investments and a strategic vision how best to protect nature, rivers, seas, soils and the air.
Such a complex topic requires cooperation of all stakeholders. And, while the government and the industry play a major part, the role of civil society and the media is no less important. Their role is not only to channel the voice of citizens for the government, but also to educate them how they can be involved.
The project “Media Investigations: Stop 2 READ (Regional Environmental Acts of Devastation)”, implemented by Centre for investigative reporting CIN-CG, BIRN and weekly Monitor aimed to raise awareness on this important issue. The overall objective of the project was to support further professionalisation and freedom of media in Montenegro.
At a conference of the project titled “EU integration process, media freedom and Chapter 27”, EU Ambassador to Montenegro Aivo Orav stressed that everyone has a role to play because protecting the environment is not just a box to tick on the way to EU accession, but a mast thing to do. Ambassador stressed the importance of media freedom and access to information in this context and added that the Centre for Investigative Journalism and their partners contributed through a number of investigative journalism articles, published under the project.
”This project is a great example of the benefits of cooperation between civil society and media. You have succeeded raising awareness about topics important to the citizens, not only in Montenegro but across the region. You have brought us new insights into regional environmental problems affecting our health and quality of life, the rich biodiversity of the region as well as the economic wellbeing of local populations. I would like to congratulate you on this success and say that the EU is proud to have supported you in this project.” stated Ambassador Orav.
Journalists working on environmental investigative stories have come across a number of difficulties in accessing information from relevant institutions and the industry polluters, pointed Ambassador stating that enabling journalists to investigate and report about issues of public interest, while guaranteeing their independence and safety, is a must.
“I am positive that the government will act upon the issues raised by the journalists and improve access to information of public interest. Greater public awareness of and involvement in environmental matters is key for improving environmental protection.” stated Ambassador Orav.
Centre for Investigative reporting president, Milka Tadic Mijovic, pointed out that Montenegro declared itself as ecological state but an enormous gap exists between proclamation and the pracsis. She stressed that, during the implementation of this project, the journalists came across problems in accessing basic information. “The institutions are not revealing information due to the fact that behind environmental devastations are influential political and economic circles and their interests. Nevertheless, the public has the right to know in order to control the authorities,” said Tadic Mijovic.
Former German ambassador to Montenegro Gudrun Elisabeth Steinacker pointed out that the biggest task is to protect nature from the big capital, with investigative journalism playing a major role. There must be no contradiction between the nice words and what is happening on the ground, she said.
The project “Media Investigations: Stop 2 READ (Regional Environmental Acts of Devastation)”, implemented by Centre for Investigative Reporting (CIN-CG), BIRN and weekly Monitor, was launched in March 2018 and it lasts for 14 months. The overall budget of the project was €100 280, 90% was funded by the EU Delegation to Montenegro and 10% by the Ministry of Public Administration, Government of Montenegro.