Intimidation Against Vanja Calovic at New Heights

The ongoing smear campaign against Vanja Calovic, Head of the human rights organisation MANS, has reached new heights. Civil Rights Defenders demands an urgent response and actions taken by the authorities in Montenegro. Vanja Calovics is a anti-corruption human rights defender in Montenegro, whom because of her work, on previous occasions, have been the target of sexualising smear campaigns in the media.

Because of her exposed situation she was one of the first to be included in the Natalia Project in the Western Balkans. This time the smear campaign was channelled through Montenegro’s daily newspaper “The Informer” which is infamous for frequently attacking those who criticise the government. The newspaper, in a direct attempt to delegitimise her work advocating against government corruption published offensive sexual images on its cover page falsely claiming that they portrayed Vanja Calovic.

Their publication was a deliberate attempt by the newspaper to compromise her personal and professional integrity while at the same time undermining the work of MANS. This is not the first smear campaign levied against Vanja and in May of 2014 a similar crusade took place after MANS revealed numerous irregularities and vote buying during local elections which were held in several municipalities throughout Montenegro.

“The Government of Montenegro must provide human rights defenders with the necessary environment to carry out their work without obstruction and fear of reprisals. A clear message must be sent condemning these attacks and every effort must be made to bring those who perpetrate such acts before the Courts”, said Goran Miletic, Programme Director for the Western Balkans at Civil Rights Defenders.

Common threats against women human rights defenders:

Threats from family members, relatives and men. Threats are often linked to traditional views of women’s roles in society. This role is further affected by the work they do. Often it is considered that their work embarrasses the family and relatives and goes against traditional values.

Public vilification linked to integrity and sexuality. It is common for women to be branded online and in the media regarding their sexuality. The principle goal is to demonise, create rumours and discredit their work.

Threats of sexual violence. These threats are often carried out both quietly and publicly. Rape is more stigmatised in repressive traditional societies and can severely damage a woman’s reputation. Women are also far more likely to be exposed to sexual violence than men during physical and psychological attacks.

Threats against the family. Seen as an efficient method to silence women. Also used against men but family bonds are in a lot of cultures more strongly linked to women who are expected to put their family’s safety above their own.

Please click on the links below for further information and stories about Vanja.