Montenegro Targeted by ‘Fake News Campaign’, Ministry Claims
The Montenegrin Culture Ministry said that the country has become the subject of an organised "disinformation campaign" since it adopted controversial legislation on religion which has angered Serbian Orthodox believers.
"Montenegro is facing an unprecedented disinformation campaign, culminating in recent weeks following the adoption of the Freedom of Religion law," the ministry said in a statement on Monday.
"It is an organised and coordinated campaign to spread fake news by a number of media outlets in the country and the region which are calling for religious and national [ethnic] hatred and violence in Montenegro," it added.
The statement came after the arrests of two journalists, Gojko Raicevic and Drazen Zivkovic, the editors of domestic news websites IN4S and Borba.
They were arrested on Sunday on suspicion of causing panic and public disorder in connection with false reports of an explosion at the Villa Gorica, a building in Podgorica that is used by the government for official receptions.
After they published their stories, some regional media republished the information. The police later denied the report and said that a minor electrical failure had occurred at the villa, which was soon repaired.
The Police Directorate said Raicevic and Zivkovic were arrested because they released the information without checking the facts.
But after his release, Raicevic said he had double-checked the information before it was published and claimed that his arrest was really about intimidating journalists.
Journalists' associations, civil society groups and opposition politicians warned that the arrests were a violation of media freedom.
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