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October 28, 2019 - Updated on October 29, 2019

Montenegro appeal court quashes Jovo Martinović’s 18-month jail sentence

Jovo Martinovic and his lawyer in front of the appeal court in Podgorica on 12 September, 2019 / DR
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) welcomes a Montenegro appeal court’s decision to quash investigative journalist Jovo Martinović’s conviction on charges of marijuana smuggling and criminal association, for which he was given an 18 month jail sentence, and calls on the court that retries him to issue an impartial and courageous decision.

The appeal court in the capital, Podgorica, ruled on 24 October that the prosecution failed to prove that Martinović committed any crime or to produce enough hard evidence to justify a prison sentence, and that the credibility of the high court’s conclusions was therefore in doubt. His retrial is expected to start within a few weeks.

 

A specialist in covering organized crime for such leading international media as The Economist, Financial Times, NPR and the BBC, Martinović was convicted on the two charges on 15 January despite overwhelming evidence that his only links with organized crime were those of a reporter preparing TV documentaries.

 

He was arrested in October 2015 while researching arms trafficking in the Balkans and spent nearly 15 months in prison until finally released pending the outcome of his trial and then his appeal.

With a new trial now likely, we call on the judicial authorities to judge this journalist on the basis of the facts and to be courageous in their decisions,” said Pauline Adès-Mével, the head of RSF’s European Union and Balkans desk. “An acquittal would be a step in the right direction for press freedom and the rule of law, and a sign that Montenegro wants to conform to EU standards.”

There is an urgent need to stop government interference in media activity in Montenegro, which is ranked 104th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.