Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said Tuesday it is appalled by the 18-month prison sentence that a Montenegro high court imposed on investigative reporter Jovo Martinovic because of his journalistic investigations into arms trafficking, and calls on international bodies not to tolerate this flagrant violation of the freedom to inform.
The court convicted Martinovic on charges of drug trafficking and criminal association despite the overwhelming evidence that his contacts with organized crime were solely the results of his investigative reporting.
Martinovic was doing journalistic investigation on arms trafficking in the Balkans for the French TV current affairs production company CAPA Presse when he was arrested on 22 October 2015, and then spent 15 months in preventive detention until granted a conditional release.
“We condemn this iniquitous verdict and sentence and regret that, during the three years of proceedings against this journalist, the judges took no account of evidence and testimony demonstrating his innocence,” said Pauline Adès-Mével, the head of RSF’s European Union and Balkans desk.
“The extreme harshness of the sentence imposed on Jovo Martinovic is yet another sign of the decline in respect for media freedom and the rule of law in a country that says it wants to join the European Union.”
Throughout this case, Montenegro has violated its obligation to respect the freedom to inform and this journalist’s right to due process, giving the impression that the actions of prosecutors and judges were subordinated to political interests.
RSF calls on all international organizations and western governments to condemn this sentence and to support Martinovic, who plans to appeal.
Montenegro is ranked 103rd out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2018 World Press Freedom Index.