Montenegro convicts Jovo Martinović again, jeopardizing EU accession

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is appalled by the one-year prison sentence that investigative reporter Jovo Martinović received on a drug trafficking charge at the end of his retrial in Montenegro today. The country’s judicial system must stop persecuting this journalist and finally take account of all the evidence of his innocence, RSF said.

In the latest stage in his Kafkaesque ordeal, Jovo Martinović was convicted of serving as an intermediary between drug traffickers. He has always maintained that his contacts with drug traffickers were purely journalistic in nature and were conducted solely for the purposes of his reporting.

Martinović has been convicted again despite the lack of evidence against him, a lack noted by an appeal court in October 2019 when it quashed the 18-month sentence he received at the end of his first trial in January 2019. A correspondent for several international media outlets and winner of the Peter Mackler Award for Courageous and Ethical Journalism in 2018, Martinović will not have to serve today’s one-year sentence because he spent 15 months in pre-trial detention after his arrest in 2015.

Possibly because of political pressure, the high court conducting the retrial suddenly cut short the hearings last month, thereby denying Martinović the chance to present new evidence of his innocence. To clear himself of all charges, Jovo Martinović has announced he will appeal the decision. 

Within the European Union, which Montenegro would like to join, there is simply no room for persecuting journalists in connection with their work,” said Pavol Szalai, the head of RSF’s EU and Balkans desk. “Jovo Martinović’s new conviction is a dark day for press freedom in Europe. We will continue to support him until Montenegro’s courts take account of the evidence of his innocence and finally acquit him of these baseless charges.”

In a declaration published on 8 October 2020, ten press freedom organisations including RSF warn that the endless persecution of Jovo Martinović "contributes to a chilling effect" on the Montenegrin media. 

Montenegro is ranked 105th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index.

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Updated on 09.10.2020