Sat | Jan 20, 2018

Authorities defend WhatsApp, Viber ban on election day

Published:Thursday | October 20, 2016 | 12:00 AM
Montenegro’s Prime Minister and long-ruling Democratic Party of Socialists leader Milo Djukanovic (right) celebrates with a supporter after claiming victory in parliamentary elections, in Podgorica, Montenegro, last Monday.


Montenegrin authorities yesterday defended a decision to block popular messaging services WhatsApp and Viber during the country's parliamentary election, saying it was prompted by citizens' complaints and in line with EU regulations.

The state Communications Agency said in a statement that its move on Sunday was designed to prevent the abuse of the services on election day. The agency said a number of users - it did not specify how many - complained of receiving unwanted election propaganda.

"The users of mobile communications in Montenegro asked for protection," the agency said. "The ban of Viber and WhatsApp application turned out to be the only option to prevent the distribution of unwanted communication."

The ban has drawn allegations of interference from opposition politicians in Montenegro and concern from European election watchers in the small Balkan country which is seeking EU and NATO membership.

The official election results on Wednesday confirmed that the long-ruling pro-Western party of Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic won most votes during the balloting, but must seek an alliance to form the next government.

The State Election Commission said that Djukanovic's Democratic Party of Socialists, which has ruled Montenegro for more than a quarter-century, won 36 seats in the 81-member Parliament. It is followed by the opposition Democratic Front with 18 seats, and the Key Coalition with nine seats, while the rest is taken up by several smaller parties and groups.

Opposition parties have complained that Sunday's balloting was marred with irregularities, including the blocking of WhatsApp and Viber.