Montenegro: OCCRP Reporter Banned from NATO Meeting

OCCRP reporter Miranda Patrucic has been uninvited at the demand of Montenegrin officials from the 81st annual Rose-Roth seminar, where she was scheduled to speak on fighting corruption. OCCRP editor Drew Sullivan was also denied access, as an attendee.

 The seminar was organized by NATO in cooperation with the Parliament of Montenegro, which was the subject of a recent OCCRP investigation by Patrucic and colleagues. That investigation found that a bank owned by family members of the ruling party leader Milo Djukanovic got large deposits from state institutions which it then loaned out in often illegal, sweetheart deals to family members and friends of the first family.  When many of those loans went sour, the government bailed out Djukanovic’s family bank with Montenegrin taxpayer money.

Patrucic found out last week that she had been uninvited from the seminar, when a NATO representative told her the Montenegrin Parliament Speaker Ranko Krivokapic had insisted she not attend. According to the NATO rep, Krivokapic gave as a reason his concern for the sensitivity of the timing, due to upcoming elections in Montenegro. In fact, Montenegro's elections will be over by the time the seminar begins, on October 15th.

"It has to do with the articles that I published, obviously," said Patrucic, who added that the Montenegrin State Prosecutor's reaction to the OCCRP investigation has been to investigate document leaks rather than to prosecute the crimes the investigation revealed. "The Prosecutor's primary and only job should be to prosecute crimes and investigate crimes, not cover up crimes," Patrucic said.

Patrucic was scheduled to speak on a panel with that State Prosecutor, Ranka Carapic.

Upon hearing of the ban, a fellow scheduled speaker reacted in protest. Dragana Zarkovic Obradovic, manager of the Serbia chapter of the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN), withdrew from the seminar, where she was scheduled to speak, along with Patrucic and Carapic, on the importance of fighting corruption.

"It's really silly to talk about integrity at a conference when somebody was disinvited just for being critical of the government," Obradovic said. "Dropping out of the conference is a small, symbolic step, but for me, this is a matter of personal and professional integrity."

"It is sad that so many dignitaries will not hear the full truth about corruption in Montenegro," said Drew Sullivan, OCCRP editor.  "Apparently the government believes that it can manage corruption not through law enforcement but through public relations."