27 May 15
Montenegro’s Top Independent TV Faces Bankruptcy
Following a court request to declare TV Vijesti bankrupt as a result of its tax debts, its editor-in-chief has accused the government of being vindictive towards independent media outlets.
A day after Montenegro’s Tax Administration filed a petition to declare TV Vijesti bankrupt, Vladan Micunovic, chief editor of TV Vijesti, told BIRN on Wednesday that the request was proof that the government was determined to punish critical voices in the media.
The petition came after the state declared it had been unable to collect taxes owed amounting to about 350,000 euro.
The official request for bankrupty proceedings concerning the prominent Montenegrin broadcaster was filed on Tuesday in the Podgorica Trade Court.
The TV station has faced a number of financial obstacles over the past year, with the managing board failing to paying taxes and workers’ social security contributions.
The number of employees at the station was almost cut in half in 2014, and those who have remained have not been paid their past three months’ wages.
The most influential and most popular TV stations in the country does not dispute the debt, but Micunovic accuses the government and the Ministry of Culture of being unwilling to reach a compromise solution.
Vijesti‘s owners have offered to immediately settle a third of the tax debt and find a model for the rest of the repayment but the government has not responded to the offer.
“Once again, the goverment has demonstrated that it is not interested in protecting media pluralism, especially among the electronic media,” Micunovic said.
TV Vijesti is a sister station to the independent daily newspaper found in 2008. Both media outlets are fierce critics of the ruling Democratic Party of Socialists and the government of Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic.
Independent research suggests they remain the most trusted and most popular media outlets in the country.
But the media companies and their founders have long complained of a campaign of intimidation by the ruling party and its allies lasting more than a decade.
This includes the bringing of nearly 40 lawsuits for defamation by Prime Minister Djukanovic and his associates as well as numerous tax audits.
Recent years have seen arson attacks on Vijesti property as well as physical attack on the newspaper’s founders and journalists.
Montenegro’s Agency for Electronic Communications finally allocated requested broadcasting frequencies to Vijesti television in 2010, after a two-year bureaucratic wrangle during which the TV station operated and broadcast its signal only through cable.
Source: Balkan Insight (Montenegro)