The shooting of an investigative journalist in Montenegro on Tuesday has sparked protests and drew the condemnation of the EU, the Council of Europe and the US.
Olivera Lakic, who works for the independent Vijesti daily as a crime and corruption reporter, was shot in the leg outside her home in the country’s capital, Podgorica and is now recovering in hospital.
Protesters demanded that the authorities find the attackers, carrying banners reading “Stop violence,” or “For a life without fear”.
The Montenegrin government is under renewed pressure to clean up the country as it seeks to join the European Union by 2025.
The small Balkan state has been notorious for its gangsterism and smuggling, and the long-ruling Democratic Party of Socialists has faced accusations of widespread crime and corruption.
Protesters gathered outside the government seat in Podgorica were they accused the authorities of failing to solve a series of attack on journalists in recent years.
Montenegrin Prime Minister Dusko Markovic demanded a “fast and efficient” investigation but many of the dozen or so assaults against journalists or media organisations in the small Balkan country over the last 15 years, including the 2004 murder of editor Dusko Jovanovic, remain unsolved.
On Wednesday the Montenegrin government announced plans to introduce tougher sanctions for attacks on journalists, saying they “must be most harshly punished.”
The assault, is the second against a journalist in the space of a few weeks. Last month a bomb exploded near the home of a prominent journalist in the northern town of Bijelo Polje.
Lakic herself was beaten up six years ago after she revealed murky dealings over a tobacco factory.
European Commissioner for Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn condemned the attack and in a tweet he said “We request full and quick investigation by the authorities to identify the assailants and wish Ms Lakic speedy and full recovery”, adding that “justice needs to be done and all politicians and authorities of the country have the responsibility to protect the life and integrity of journalists and guarantee press freedom and freedom of expression”
#Montenegro: “Condemn in the strongest terms the assault against investigative journalist Olivera #Lakic, #Vijesti. We request full and quick investigation by the authorities to identify the assailants and wish Ms #Lakic speedy and full recovery. 1/2
— Johannes Hahn (@JHahnEU) May 9, 2018
The Council of Europe’s secretary-general Thorbjorn Jagland also condemned the attack and said “the work of journalists and free media are essential to the functioning of any democracy. Attacks on journalists are therefore also an attack on democracy. Unfortunately, such attacks are on the rise. This is a key concern for the Council of Europe and we must do all we can to stop this dangerous trend.“
The US Embassy in Podgorica said journalists “are the guardians of democracy and must be protected so they can do their jobs in safety”.