Criminal defamation was repealed in Montenegro in 2011.
Criminal Defamation of Public Officials
Criminal Defamation of the Head of State
Criminal Defamation of the State and its Symbols
Provisions on the books.
Publicly mocking the Republic of Montenegro, its flag, coat of arms or national anthem is a criminal offence under Art. 198 of the Montenegrin Criminal Code. The punishment is a fine or imprisonment for up to one year.
Criminal Defamation of Foreign States and Symbols
Provisions on the books.
Publicly exposing to mockery a foreign state or its flag, coat of arms of national anthem is a criminal offence under Art. 200 of the Montenegrin Criminal Code if Montenegro has diplomatic relations with that state. The punishment is a fine from €3,000 to €10,000. The same provision applies to publicly mocking the United Nations, International Red Cross or any other international organisation of which Montenegro is a member.
Criminal Defamation of the Deceased
However, Art. 202 of the Montenegrin Criminal Code (“Prosecution for Offences against Honour and Reputation”) states that if a defamation-related criminal offence is committed against a deceased person (offence of dissemination of information on personal and family life), prosecution may be initiated (via private action) by the spouse of the deceased or person cohabiting with the deceased, lineal descendant, adoptive parent, adopted child, or the deceased person’s sibling.
Provisions on the books.
Causing or inciting religious hatred is a criminal offence under Art. 370 of the Montenegrin Criminal Code, punishable with imprisonment from six months to five years. If the offence is committed by exposing religious symbols to mockery, the punishment will be a prison sentence ranging from one to eight years. These punishments are further increased (up to 10 years in prison in the case of exposing religious symbols to mockery) if these respective acts are followed by riots, violence or other severe consequences.
Other Relevant Criminal Offences
Dissemination of information on personal and family life
Still a criminal offence in Montenegro is the “dissemination of information on personal and family life”, defined as the presentation or dissemination of information on anyone’s personal or family life that may harm his honour or reputation. It is punishable with a fine between €3,000 and €10,000 (Art. 197 of the Montenegrin Criminal Code).
If this offence is committed through the media or other similar means or at a public gathering, the punishment increases to a fine between €5,000 and €14,000. Additionally, if the offence resulted in grave consequences for the offended person, the minimum fine is €8,000.
Offence to minorities
Art. 199 prescribes that whoever publicly exposes to mockery a nation, minority nation or other minority ethnic community living in Montenegro will be punished with a fine ranging from 3,000 to €10,000.
According to Art. 233, par. 3 of the Criminal Code, anyone who without permission changes or re-makes someone else’s copyrighted work or recorded performance in a way that it offends the honour and reputation of the author shall be punished with a fine or an imprisonment for up to six months.
Prosecution for offences of dissemination of information on personal and family life under the Montenegrin Criminal Code is undertaken by private action. Prosecution for offences listed under Article 200 (defamation of the state, its symbols, or international organisations) is undertaken upon approval of the State Public Prosecutor (Article 202, par. 1).
Statistics on Application
Montenegro has no specific civil law regulating defamation, but rather civil liablity is subject to certain provisions in the and the . In addition, Article 49 of the prescribes that the right to compensation of damage caused by the publication of untruthful data or information shall be guaranteed.
Art. 20 of the Media Act provides that if a media outlet publishes content that violates a person’s legally protected interests or that violates a person’s honour or integrity, that person has the right to file for compensation of damages against the author and the founder of the media (under the terms of the Obligations Act). The Obligations Act, in turn, allows for both material damages in the case of insult to honour and the spreading of false statements “concerning another person’s past, knowledge and ability” (205). The Act also allows for moral damages pain and suffering caused by a violation of reputation or honour (207).
There are no caps on non-pecuniary damages for defamation in Montenegrin law.
The Obligations Act states generally (Art. 192) that the liable person shall be obliged to re-establish the situation prior to the occurrence of the damage. In considering a request for compensation for non-pecuniary damage, the court should take into account the signficance of the value violated, the purpose to be achieved by the request and whether the redress favours ends “otherwise incompatible with its nature and social purpose” (Art. 207). Additionally, the Act specifies that court can, if the violation is grave enough according to the circumstances, award non-pecuniary damages to legal persons for the violation of reputation, independently of any material damages awarded (Art. 207, par. 3).
For material damages, Art. 205, par. 2 of the Obligations Act states that, in the case of the spreading of false statements, a person cannot be held liable if he or she did not know and was not required to know that the statement was untrue and if the he/she and the person “acknowledging the statement” had a serious interest in the matter.
Media Cases and Case Law
Notable cases involving the media
In 2011, Petar Komnenic, a Montenegrin journalist, was sentenced to pay a fine of €3,000 or serve four months in prison after being found guilty of libel over a 2007 story in the newspaper Monitor in which Komnenic reported that the Montenegrin authorities had placed several senior judges under unlawful surveillance. The charges were brought by the President of the High Court, Ivica Stankovic. Komnenic refused to pay the fine and appealed the prison term, with a second court stating that his sentence should be replaced by community service. However, in 2012 – a year after defamation had been decriminalised in Montenegro – the court the original sentence.
In 2008, a Podgorica court Zeljko Ivanovic, an editor of the newspaper Vijesti, and the newspaper’s publisher, the Daily Press, to each pay €10,000 in damages to Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic for harming the latter’s honour and reputation. The court also ordered the publishing of the decision in its entirety in the next issue of Vijesti. The case related to a 2007 incident in which Ivanovic was assaulted by three unidentified men on the day Vijesti was celebration its 10th anniversary. Afterward Ivanovic publicly claimed that Djukanovic was behind the attack in response to Vijesti’s negative coverage of him and his party and wrote in an editorial that Montenegro was a country “where the mafia and government are intertwined to the point of being unrecognisable”, the the prime minister sued, claiming €1 million for “damaged dignity and mental suffering.” Another defendant in this case, the editor of Vijesti Ljubisa Mitrovic, was cleared of all charges, as there were no grounds for his liability. The court’s opinion was that the defendants didn’t prove the truthfulness of the mentioned information and statements.
In 1994, a special correspondent for the magazine Liberal published an article stating that 16 journalists from Montenegro would be tried before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) for incitement to war. One of the journalists named sued Veseljko Koprivica, then Liberal editor-in-chief , together with the magazine’s publisher, for libel, claiming that the allegations were false and had damaged his honour and reputation. In 2002, ICTY notified the court in Montenegro that it had no information on the plaintiff and in 2004 the court of first instance ordered Koprivica and the magazine’s founder to jointly pay €5,000 in compensation to the plaintiff. The High Court in Podgorica in 2008 increased the compensation to €10,000, holding that Koprivica should have focused on verifiying the information, rather than on publishing it as soon as possible. In 2008, The Supreme Court of Montenegro reduced the damages to €5,000 and awarded costs of €2,700. Koprivica then appealed to the European Court of Human Rights, which appeared to agree with the Montenegrin courts’ finding that Koprivica had failed to adequately verify the correspondent’s report in accordance with journalist duty. However, the Court ruled that the compensation awarded was disproportionate in light of Koprivica’s salary (his average monthly income during the proceedings was approximately €300) and thus that there had been a violation of Article 10. The judgment became final on Feb. 22nd, 2012.
Recent Legal Changes
Criminal defamation and slander were repealed in Montenegro in 2011.
Notes and Acknowledgements
Information on defamation laws in Europe was collected by the International Press Institute (IPI) in collaboration with the School of Public Policy’s Center for Media, Data and Society at Central European University in Budapest and their partners at the SHARE Foundation in Belgrade. (Read more about our partners here.)
The information contained in this database is for informational and advocacy purposes only. If you are a journalist facing a defamation claim, you should seek legal advice from a qualified attorney. However, if you are unable to find such an attorney, IPI may be able to assist you in doing so. Please contact us at ipi[at]freemedia.at.
Information on Montenegro was last updated in January 2015.