Montenegro investigative reporter wins International Women of Courage Award

Reuters/Stevo Vasiljević

Investigative reporter Olivera Lakic of Montenegro's daily Vijesti was announced as one of the ten recipients of the 13th annual International Women of Courage Award, the US State Department said on Wednesday.

The State Department said that Lakic earned the award for her dedication and determination in reporting on crime and corruption in her native Montenegro during her 16-year career at the country's largest daily.

Lakic, who had extensively covered the trafficking of counterfeit tobacco and the organised crime groups controlling the trade, was first threatened in 2011 and assaulted in front of her home in Montenegro's capital Podgorica in 2012. In May 2018, she was shot in the leg by still unknown assailants on the same location.

In spite of threats and intimidation, Lakic continued reporting, and the 2018 attack was condemned by a number of international organisations and foreign governments.

“Although the shooter remains unknown and at large, Ms Lakic has become a galvanizing symbol for media reform and journalist safety in Montenegro. A survivor and a fighter, she considers the 2011 threat against her daughter the gravest attack on her and her family,” the State Department said.

This year's International Women of Courage Award will be presented on Thursday, March 7, in Washington, DC, to Lakic and nine other women from around the world. The ceremony will be hosted by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, with First Lady Melania Trump scheduled to deliver special remarks.

Since its inception in 2007 by then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to mark the International Women's Day, the award has since been given to more than 120 women from 65 countries.

Lakic will join only three other women from the former Yugoslavia who won the award so far, all three from Kosovo – peacebuilding activist Valdete Idrizi (2008), investigative journalist Arbana Xharra (2015), and a human rights activist, Feride Rushiti (2018).