CPJ writes to Montenegrin Prime Minister Milo Đukanović on behalf of detained journalist

April 19, 2016 12:40 PM ET

April 19, 2016

Milo Đukanović
Prime Minister of Montenegro
Karađorđeva bb
81000 Podgorica
Montenegro

Via facsimile: +382 (20) 242 329

Dear Prime Minister Đukanović:

The Committee to Protect Journalists, an independent press freedom organization, is deeply troubled by the ongoing detention of freelance Montenegrin journalist Jovo Martinović. Martinović has been detained on suspicion of participating in a drug trafficking ring since October 22, 2015, pending the completion of an investigation against him and 17 other suspects, according to press reports and his family. Martinović denies any involvement in criminal activity, his family told CPJ.

Last month, CPJ wrote a private letter to Chief Special Prosecutor Milivoje Katnić, asking for Martinović's release on bail pending the completion of the investigation, but received no response.

Today, we are writing to alert you to this journalist's almost six-month-long detention without charge, and to call for his immediate release. Jovo Martinović is known for his work on investigative stories, and has contributed reporting and research to many international news media outlets, such as The Economist, Newsday, Global Post, The Financial Times, and VICE media group. Please find attached testimonies from journalists who have worked with Martinović and who vouch for his professional integrity.

Martinović's work has often brought him into contact with criminals. Matthew McAllester, currently editor of Newsweek Europe, recalled Martinović's help reporting on war criminals in the Balkans. "One of Jovo [Martinović]'s great talents is finding people involved in criminal activity and persuading them to speak to foreign journalists," McAllester told CPJ.

Martinović used such skills in his work with VICE on the production of a 2014 documentary series about a gang of gem thieves known as the Pink Panthers, and with French production company CAPA Presse, which at the time of his arrest had hired him to do background research and find sources for the company's documentary film, "La route de la kalashnikov." The documentary, which aired on the French television channel, Canal+, on January 4, 2016, exposed illegal smuggling of weapons from the Balkans into Western Europe.

According to the Montenegro Special Public Prosecutor's Office's October 24, 2015, order of investigation, which CPJ has reviewed, prosecutors suspect Martinović of helping to form a drug smuggling ring and of being a member of that ring.

As the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network reported on Friday, Jovo Martinović had interactions--as part of his journalistic work--with two of the other 17 suspects in the alleged drug-trafficking scheme, namely Duško Martinović (no relation to the journalist) and Namik Selmanović. Duško Martinović, the main suspect in the drug case, was also a convicted member of the Pink Panther gang of thieves, and Jovo Martinović worked with him on the VICE media group series about the thieves. He worked alongside Selmanović when both were hired by CAPA Presse to contribute research to the weapons-smuggling documentary.

Being able to talk to all parties to a story is indispensable to being a good journalist. As photojournalist Donald Weber, who worked with Martinović on a 2013 Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazin story about the Pink Panthers, told CPJ, "Jovo's work led him into contact with unsavory characters. He never judged their pasts or their crimes, but managed to gain trust from all sides in order to allow revelations of corruption and misconduct within Montenegrin society." Weber added, "I have always considered him one of the, if not the most, reliable, trustworthy and dedicated journalists I have met, in the Balkans and elsewhere."

Given Jovo Martinovic's reputation for professional integrity, his prominence, and his record of meeting a wide variety of people in the course of his work as a reporter, we ask that you instruct relevant authorities either to produce evidence to justify the journalist's continued detention and to charge him, or to release him, without further delay.

Sincerely,

Joel Simon
Executive Director
Committee to Protect Journalists

CC Ambassador of Montenegro in the United States Srđan Darmanović
U.S. Ambassador to Montenegro Margaret Uyehara
NATO Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs and Security Policy Ambassador Thrasyvoulos Terry Stamatopoulos
Head of the Montenegrin Mission to NATO Ambassador Dragana Radulović
High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission Federica Mogherini
European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy Johannes Hahn
Director General for Enlargement at the European Commission Christian Danielsson
European Union Special Representative for Human Rights Stavros Lambrinidis
Head of Delegation of the European Union to Montenegro Mitja Drobnič
Head of Mission of Montenegro to the European Union Ivan D. Leković
Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muižnieks
OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatović

APPENDIX

International journalists' testimonies in support of Jovo Martinović (excerpted)

Bruce Clark, The Economist:

I write in my capacity as an experienced British journalist, having worked as diplomatic correspondent for the Financial Times and international news editor for The Economist.

I have known Jovo Martinović since early 2000 when I started making quite frequent journeys to southeastern Europe in my capacity as international security correspondent for The Economist. In the course of at least six trips between 2000 and 2006 I worked closely with Martinović who often arranged interviews for me with the Montenegrin leadership and other prominent figures. He generously shared his knowledge of the political situation in the region and assisted my work in other places like Serbia, Bosnia, and Macedonia. We have remained in friendly contact since then.

Having worked with Martinović over many years, I have the highest opinion of his professional integrity. In all our dealings, he has shown his absolute commitment to the highest journalistic standards.

Till Krause, Editor, Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazin:

I am writing this letter to express my deepest concerns and to testify, from personal experience, to Martinović's exceptional professional and ethical journalistic standards, his outstanding knowledge and commitment. I am working as an editor at Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazin, the magazine supplement of Germany's leading national quality newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung. In May 2013 I had the pleasure of working with Jovo Martinovic for a story about organized crime originating in Montenegro -- the Pink Panther network of diamond thieves. We travelled for several days through Montenegro, trying to get in touch with members of this criminal organization. The result of this collaboration was published in summer 2013 as the cover story of our magazine. Without Martinović's help, this story could not have been written.

Considering Martinović's recent incarceration and possible legal charges, I would like to state that the nature of his work as an investigative journalist often necessitates interaction with members of criminal groups in order to get information about their practices. Yet, from my personal experience of working with him, he deals with these people - and the information they provide - in the most professional manner and solely for the purpose of uncovering information of vital journalistic importance.

Jovo Martinović is one of the most dedicated and responsible journalists I have ever worked with. He is well respected with reporters from major publications from all over the world. Due to his diligent research, several criminal activities (from organized theft to smuggling of weapons to illegal medical practices) could be uncovered. It is my sincere impression that Martinović is of very good character and maintains the highest standards of personal and professional ethics. He is a person that I trust and I kept in contact with even after our collaboration ended.

Michael Montgomery, The Center for Investigative Reporting:

Jovo [Martinović] played a key role in several investigations I conducted for American RadioWorks, the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network and the BBC from 1990 to 2015. The stories we produced were important and consequential: They spurred international criminal inquires that resulted in the prosecution and conviction of Serbian and ethnic Albanian paramilitaries for war crimes (cases from Kukes and Peja).

Jovo's work also formed the bedrock for another investigation that has received intense media coverage--allegations of organ trafficking and other abuses by the Kosovo Liberation Army. As a direct result of his efforts, the Council of Europe conducted an exhaustive inquiry headed by Special Rapporteur Dick Marty. In addition, the EU has created a special court in The Hague to prosecute perpetrators of crimes against civilians in Kosovo, including Serbs. Until now, I have not publicized Jovo's role in this investigation out of concerns for his safety.

In the context of Jovo's current confinement and possible legal charges, it is important to note that one of his many skills involves tracing underground criminal networks and interacting with members of these groups to elicit information of vital journalistic importance. This is what he does, very effectively. Without Jovo, there would be no Marty report and no special court in The Hague. In my experience, Jovo Martinović has always acted with a deep sense of honor and with a sharp focus on uncovering the truth and exposing injustice.

Matthew McAllester, Editor of Newsweek Europe:

Jovo Martinović is an outstanding journalist. His integrity is unimpeachable. He has spent his career helping Western journalists -- myself included -- report on the activities of criminals and has been pivotal in numerous investigations.

Philip Sherwell, The Daily Telegraph Media Group:

I worked closely with Jovo Martinović on several trips to the Balkans in my position as Chief Foreign Correspondent of The Sunday Telegraph (UK) and he was invariably the ultimate honest professional and colleague. He demonstrated diligence, courage, integrity and impeccable behavior in the most challenging circumstances when working with me.

We often asked him to make contact with those who are, broadly, "the bad guys" for our work. He did so at our request and to meet our professional needs. Martinović helped shine a light on wrong-doing and abuse. And in the process, he played a key role as Montenegro emerged from the violent break-up of the former Yugoslavia and onto the international stage as a proud independent country.

His assistance with investigations into war criminals, people smugglers and trafficking gangs has helped Montenegro and the region move forward from some of the worst excesses of the past. Of course, that meant that he sometimes has to deal with some extremely unsavory individuals. We could not have done our work without him doing so.

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