The Committee to Protect Journalists, along with the Human Rights Watch and Reporters Without Borders, today wrote a joint letter to Montenegrin Prime Minister Milo Đukanović protesting the 11-month pretrial detention of freelance journalist Jovo Martinović, who has been accused of participating in a drug trafficking ring--an accusation he has denied and which the prosecution has failed to substantiate with evidence.
Martinović was detained on October 22, 2015, and on April 8, 2016, the Special Prosecutor's Office filed an indictment against the journalist and 13 other suspects. Requests by Martinović's lawyer for the journalist to be released on bail were rejected.
"The only evidence that the prosecutor had provided to Martinović are statements from two of his co-accused, who are apparently cooperating with the authorities in return for reduced sentences," CPJ, HRW, and RSF said in the letter to Prime Minister Đukanović. The organizations pointed to a series of articles in the local press, alleging that Montenegrin Special Prosecutor Mira Samardžić applied pressure on one of Martinović's co-accused to implicate the journalist in crimes he had not committed.
Martinović is a veteran investigative reporter who for the past 15 years has worked extensively on crime and war crimes stories, and has contributed reporting and research for the international media including The Economist, Newsday, and The Financial Times among others. International journalists who have worked with him vouched for his character and professional ethics, CPJ, HRW, and RSF said.
"Mr. Prime Minister, we are concerned that Jovo Martinović's lengthy detention and prosecution is motivated by his work as an investigative journalist rather than in response to an alleged criminal act," the groups said. "If the prosecution has amassed probative evidence against Martinović, we call on the relevant authorities to give full access to that evidence to Martinović and his legal representatives so they can prepare his legal defense. We also call for Martinović's release pending the outcome of his trial."
To read the full letter, click here.