Montenegrins emphasise media ethics


December 21, 2006 ORT helps Montenegro to develop a free and fair media ORT is doing its bit to help the people of Montenegro develop their own ways of civic life in the wake of the peoples vote for self-rule. ORTs non-sectarian International Cooperation arm, with funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), has been nurturing the development of local organisations committed to fair, responsible media and public bodies implementation of freedom of information legislation. ORT is helping Montenegrins develop their own ways and means of instilling accountability and the rule of law in public life, said ORT IC Director Celeste Angus. We dont impose anything; we help them to identify critical issues and how to address them. This year, ORT revived the Journalistic Self-Regulatory Body (NST) and helped it transform its organisational structure and ethos. The work is done through the Montenegro Advocacy Programme (MAP), which empowers local non-government organisations to identify public policy concerns that resonate with a broad cross section of stakeholders and provides them with the capacity to mobilise. Customised training is provided to local NGO partners at the ORT office in Podgorica, the capital of Montenegro. In its previous incarnation, the NST gathered representatives of commercial media, journalist associations, unions and media NGOs into a press council. However, the organisation became politicised. Through our organisational development capacity building programme, ORT helped the remaining professional members of the old body put a new statute in place which separated the managing board of the body from its press council, said Ms Angus. The NST management nominated a new council body, which this time was made up of editors-in-chief of professional media outlets. In addition, ORT helped the new council to adopt a new way of working that would depoliticise the process of enforcing journalistic ethics. This was done by the hiring of independent media monitoring services which could log cases of ethical breaches in the print and broadcasting media without fear or favour. ORT also supports the use of two ombudsmen who meet regularly with the council and sign off on any reports that are made public. Its important that the general public is aware of the importance of responsible, professional media and their role as citizens and consumers to demand the highest standards of journalists, Ms Angus said. So the NST holds regular press conferences at which the medias ethical highs and lows are revealed. Also, a pilot campaign is being conducted to encourage members of the public to contact the council with complaints of media misbehaviour. ORT has also been supporting the highly regarded Association of Young Journalists (AYJ) in its work to ensure that the Law on Free Access to Information is correctly and fully enforced in the country. To test public institutions, the AYJ has submitted more than 850 requests for information to public bodies on behalf of citizens; of those 700 were not answered by the deadlines prescribed by law, Ms Angus said. Through its International Cooperation arm, ORT has benefited some two million people in 92 countries since 1960 with non-sectarian, humanitarian support. Current projects which are funded in cooperation with bilateral and multi-lateral aid agencies and by private foundations include health and nutrition, transport, rural development, refugee training, information technology and the training of women. World ORT, founded in 1880, is the worlds largest Jewish education and vocational training non-government organisation with some 200,000 beneficiaries every year in 58 countries.