Achieving integration for a minority group with estimated illiteracy rates of 80% is a great challenge. But battling against ingrained prejudices that perpetuate the social exclusion of the Roma, Ashkali, Egyptian population is also proving to be a profound obstacle. The publication of articles written by the first journalist fellow, Biljana Alković, in the weekly Monitor, are greatly significant in the realisation of a new policy by the Montenegrin government towards the Roma population.
A Fellowship for Journalists of Roma, Ashkali, Egyptian Origin (RAE)
In 2008, the Montenegrin government and Roma NGOs concluded that lack of education and illiteracy are key limiting factors in RAE social integration and the exercising of the community’s fundamental human rights and freedoms. However, this is only half the problem. In the same year, RAE journalists found local and public broadcasting services unwilling to offer them employment, despite their completion of a professional journalism qualification at the Media Institute. The justification that RAE candidates did not have university degrees, revealed itself to be discriminatory when the average education of employed journalists of other nationalities was used as a benchmark.
The Fellowship for Journalists of RAE Origin was initiated by the Monitor Center for Media and Democracy (MCMD), a locally established NGO in Montenegro. Recognising the pivotal role of the media in promoting an affirmative approach to the RAE population, the MCMD partnered up with ERSTE Foundation and the widely circulated newsmagazine, Monitor. One journalist of RAE origin is selected for a yearlong traineeship at the independent weekly, where they publish ten articles on the main issues affecting the Roma population and other minority groups. The fellowship represents an important step in achieving the Montenegrin government’s strategy to enlist the support of national broadcasting institutions in the integration of the RAE population into the education system – thereby improving their overall position.