Turbulent Parliament night

The Proposal to the Law on Freedom of Religion or Belief and the Legal Status of Religious Communities was adopted by the votes of the ruling majority and the Social Democratic Party (SDP).

The Proposal to the Law on Freedom of Religion or Belief and the Legal Status of Religious Communities, which will regulate, among other things, property-legal relations between religious communities and the state, has been adopted by the votes of the ruling majority and the SDP on the night between December 26-27. The most severe conflicts and divisions in public concern the provisions whereby religious sites and land used by religious communities in the territory of Montenegro, built or acquired from public revenue of the state or owned by the state until December 1, 1918, will become the state property if there is no evidence on religious community ownership of these objects.

The event aroused great interest not only in Montenegrin media but also in regional ones. While some of them published accurate information on developments in Montenegro, others tended to spread disinformation. Spinning, spreading fake news, and calls for protests organized by the Metropolitanate of Montenegro and the Littoral began even before the announcement of the gathering in Niksic on December 21.

The Pope’s message – dialogue and agreement!

Thus, Serbian portals were flooded with headlines, such as The Pope uses secret channels to defend the SPC (Serbian Orthodox Church) from Podgorica, The Pope strikes Milo through secret channels: the Vatican stands on the side of the Serbian Church, clearly stated their position on the seizure of the shrines. The content of the articles is based on a statement given by a high-ranking Vatican clergyman for the Novosti portal, but there is nothing in the statement that could be associated with the aforementioned sensationalist headlines. The high-ranking clergyman emphasized that the Pope’s position was clear, which meant that a solution should be reached through dialogue and agreement.

Social networks, especially Facebook, were also used as a means of mobilizing and calling for the gathering in Niksic, but also for the protests that followed. An analysis of these announcements revealed that numerous individuals and Facebook pages affiliated with or originated in Serbia shared an invitation to the event: Srbi u Crnoj Gori, Nikšić Ponosni Srpski Grad, NSPM, Istorija Srba, Pravoslavie.rs, Srbsko Rusko prijateljstvo, Srpske internet novine, SRBI i Srbija, Savez Srba iz Crne Gore, Srbska stvar, Srbi za Srbe, Istorija Crne Gore, Borbeni Efektivi.

Calling for the protests via Facebook

As the date of voting on the Proposal to the Law on Freedom of Religion in the Parliament of Montenegro was approaching, the engagement of the Facebook meme pages intensified, calling for protests and inciting incidents using aggressive rhetoric. Such events were evident even in the days after the adoption of the Law; protests were organized throughout Montenegro, as well as the region. One of the incidents involved burning of the Montenegrin flag in front of the Embassy of Montenegro in Belgrade, and the removal of the sign from the Montenegrin Embassy building in Ljubljana. 

In the meantime, the media in Serbia and the Republic of Srpska continue with sensationalistic reporting, aggravating the situation in Montenegro: Great evil is about to come: Montenegro on the brink of religious war, Milo Djukanovic does not give up on adopting a controversial law, if the Parliament adopts it, the authorities will be able to seize the churches and force the SPC to register as if it existed since 2020. People stood up, defending the shrines, Milo sent the police to the people, Chaos in Montenegro: Serbs threatened with violence over the Law on Religion, blocked roads… These were just some of the headlines.

Informerorchestrated lies

The editorial staff of Informer promoted the disinformation that Prime Minister Dusko Markovic was slapped shortly after his meeting with Metropolitan Amfilohije. As stated in the text headlined PRIME MINISTER DUSKO MARKOVIC GOT SLAPPED DUE TO MEETING AMFILOHIJE! physical assault on the Prime Minister was done by Zoran Lazovic, an assistant director of the Police Directorate of Montenegro.

Prime Minister Markovic spoke before the MPs to inform them of the outcome of the discussion with Metropolitan Amfilohije and denied the disinformation, calling it an attempt of manipulation. We, on the other hand, are not surprised by such narratives of the Informer’s editorial staff. It is no coincidence that Informer is the 2019 Golden Pinocchio winner for the most published fake content.

Even though it is evident that a significant number of citizens attended the litanies throughout Montenegro, figures such as 100 or 120 thousand citizens mentioned in the media are far away from the truth. Such disinformation gives rise to those who call for the radicalization of gatherings, such as Srbska cast (Eng. Serbian Honor) which presents itself as a humanitarian organization while at the same time calling to arms.

Disinformation published on the FOS Media portal that the members of ROSU would give hand to Montenegro on Christmas Eve caused many negative comments, but also the swift reaction of the Prosecution and the Police. 

Hoping that the tensions over the adopted Law on Freedom of Religion will gradually diminish and that these disagreements and disputes will be in time overcome, using reason and dialogue, the appeal to the authorities remains that Montenegrin society, together with the media community and educational institutions, must strive to stand in the way to the globally expressed phenomenon of spreading disinformation.

Misleads about Articles 62-64

What do Articles 62-64 of the Law on Freedom of Religion really mean, referring to the registration of the Church’s property as the property of the state of Montenegro, and is it about the seizure of religious buildings of the MCP and its believers or have its supporters tendentiously been misled?

It is strange that such masses have been recruited for protests against seizure, conversion, and so on – as presented by the Orthodox clergy in Montenegro and beyond – if it is known that the same churches and monasteries will still be visited by believers, often by representatives of all religions and even by atheists.

Should the Metropolitanate of Montenegro and the Littoral be concerned? Maybe if the mutter has a goal to draw attention from other more important regional issues. We would say that there is too much meddling of other factors. 

Press release of the Nacional Security Council of Montenegro

The organization and the protests were accompanied by strong and negative political, and inappropriate and aggressive media campaigns, with a great deal of misinformation and fake news – aimed at disturbing the public and citizens, and fostering riots and instability.

The bearers of these activities were from the country, but also from our immediate neighborhood – with the clear intention of misinforming the citizens, and especially the believers, about the alleged scenario of intruding into the religious objects of the Serbian Orthodox Church; the expulsion of priests; and pressures on the Serb community in Montenegro.