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Montenegro: Harassment and smears against PEN member Andrej Nikolaidis must end

March 22, 2024 IN WIP
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Writers in Prison PEN Melbourne

Mar 21, 2024, 2:35 PM (1 day ago)

Montenegro: Harassment and smears against PEN member Andrej Nikolaidis must end

To: Aurelia, Dondo <Aurelia.Dondo@pen-international.org>

Dear friends,

Please find below PEN International’s latest joint statement with the Montenegrin PEN Centre and PEN Bosnia and Herzegovina, in support of PEN member Andrej Nikolaidis.The statement is also available online at the following link: https://www.pen-international.org/news/montenegro-harassment-and-smears-against-pen-member-must-endIn solidarity,Aurélia

Montenegro: Harassment and smears against PEN member Andrej Nikolaidis must end

‘PEN International stands in solidarity with PEN member Andrej Nikolaidis, who finds himself yet again harassed and smeared by pro-government supporters. Writers, journalists, and other creatives in Montenegro operate in an increasingly toxic and suffocating atmosphere, which seriously impacts their expression. Pressure, intimidation, and threats aimed at stifling independent voices – including those of PEN members – must end once and for all.’

Ma Thida, Chair of PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee.  20 March 2024 –

The targeting of prominent writer, journalist and PEN member Andrej Nikolaidis must end at once, PEN International, the Montenegrin PEN Centre and PEN Bosnia and Herzegovina said today, after his effigy was burnt at a carnival in Herceg Novi, Southwestern Montenegro. The incident is the latest in a series of harassment and smears against Nikolaidis, on account of his views critical of the Montenegrin authorities.  On 3 March, organisers of the Herceg Novi carnival burned an effigy of Andrej Nikolaidis, amidst chants denigrating his mixed ethnicity and association with Montenegrin literature.

The incident generated wide coverage in Montenegro and the broader region, with civil society and academics fearing his targeting is reminiscent of historical acts of book burningsand meant to intimidate critical thinkers. Nikolaidis is a member of the Montenegrin PEN Centre and PEN Bosnia and Herzegovina, which both condemned the incident. Nikolaidis himself expressed concerns he was being targeted for his dissenting views.

Known for his political activism, anti-nationalism, anti-war stance, and support for human rights, Andrej Nikolaidis has received many threats throughout the years, including a death threat during a live radio appearance. In August 2022, the Ministry of Culture and Media of Montenegro notably announced it would consider revoking the status of ‘Prominent Cultural Creator of Montenegro’ from Nikolaidis, due to aesthetic statements he made about writers Ivo Andrić and Petar II Petrović Njegoš. Nikolaidis subsequently faced online smears and backlash in pro-government media. At the time, PEN International and the Montenegrin PEN Centre raised concerns that Nikolaidis was being targeted for his vocal opposition to the Russian Federation’s war against Ukraine, and of Russian and Serbian attempts to interfere in Montenegrin internal affairs.

Additional information  Andrej Nikolaidis, born in 1974, is an acclaimed and influential Montenegrin-Bosnian writer and journalist. His novel Sin (The Son) won the European Union Prize for Literature in 2011. He won Montenegro’s prestigious Thirteenth of July Award in 2020. His novel Anomaly was notably awarded English PEN’s PEN Translates award in 2024.

Nikolaidis is amongst several members of the Montenegrin PEN Centre who have found themselves targeted by the Montenegrin authorities and pro-government supporters in recent years. On 19 August 2022, Montenegro’s then Prime Minister Dritan Abazović publicly attacked the Montenegrin PEN Centre in Parliament, accusing it of spreading ‘extremism and nationalism’. Abazović showed a picture of the award-winning Montenegrin writer and member of the Montenegrin PEN Centre, Milorad Popović, labelling him an agent of nationalist politics who ‘serves the interests of crime.’

Academic, writer, and Vice President of the Montenegrin PEN Centre Boban Batrićević faces up to 60 days in prison for an article he wrote on the Serbian Orthodox church in Montenegro. His next hearing has been set for 26 March 2024.

An October 2023 joint report by PEN International, PEN Bosnia and Herzegovina, PEN Kosovo, the Montenegrin PEN Centre, and Serbian PEN, documents the myriad threats and harassment faced by independent writers, journalists and other creatives in the Western Balkans. The report specifically calls on the authorities of Montenegro to publicly, unequivocally, and systematically condemn all acts of violence and targeted attacks against writers, journalists, and activists, and to bring laws, policies, and practices pertaining to freedom of expression and media freedom fully in line with their international obligations and commitments.

For further details contact Aurélia Dondo, Head of Europe and Central Asia Region at PEN International: Aurelia.dondo@pen-international.org  Aurélia Dondo| Head of Europe and Central Asia
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People say that (writers) are pretty powerless: we don’t have an army, we don’t have a bureaucracy. But if that were true, then why would writers be arrested?... Because the spoken word is powerful.

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