Martinovic cannot attend the ceremony because he is banned from leaving Montenegro, where he is currently being tried on spurious charges prompted by his investigative reporting on organized crime, trafficking and corruption.
“By singling out Jovo Martinovic, the Peter Mackler Award is paying tribute to the courage and commitment of a journalist who has paid a high price for his devotion to the freedom to inform in Montenegro,” said Pauline Adès-Mével, the head of RSF’s EU-Balkans desk.
“Despite tremendous difficulties, many investigative journalists keep battling every day to establish the truth in the Balkans. This award sends a powerful message of hope to the region’s journalistic community.”
Aged 44, Martinovic has worked for many leading international media outlets, including The Economist, The Financial Times, the BBC, the US public radio broadcaster NPR and the French TV channel Canal Plus.
His arrest in Montenegro three years ago, on 22 October 2015, on a charge of belonging to a trafficking ring, was immediately condemned by RSF and other international NGOs, including Human Rights Watch and the Committee to Protect Journalists.
He has always denied the charge, insisting that his contacts with criminal circles were motivated solely by the desire to gather information for his reporting. At the time of his arrest, he was working on a story about the “Pink Panthers,” an international ring of jewel thieves, many of whom were from the former Yugoslavia.
After being held for nearly 15 months, Martinovic was finally released provisionally in January 2017 but he still faces up to ten years in prison if convicted.
He trial was originally due to conclude on 24 September, but the judicial authorities suddenly decided a few weeks ago to combine his case with that of another defendant who is on the run and is being tried in absentia. This will have the effect of delaying the end of Martinovic’s trial for an undetermined period.
The delay will be further prolonged by a decision that all of the trial’s documents and all written records of the proceedings so far will have to be translated into Albanian because the new additional defendant is of Albanian origin, although he speaks Serbo-Croatian. The court authorities in Podgorica took this decision just a few days before the Peter Mackler Award ceremony.
Martinovic meanwhile continues to be subject to judicial control and is unable to leave the country because the authorities are holding his passport.