PEN International joint statement with the PEN Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegrin PEN Centre, in support of PEN member Andrej Nikolaidis

‘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 burnings

and 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.

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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.

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