A Montenegro court found on Tuesday an investigative journalist, who was researching organized crime groups, guilty of drug trafficking and criminal association. International press freedom organisations labeled the verdict as unfair and demanded his immediate acquittal.
Jovo Martinovic was sentenced to 18 months in prison. Both counts against him were related to his work as a journalist, with the court claiming he used his “journalistic connection to connect three defendants,“ according to the European Federation of Journalists, EFJ.
Martinovic denied the accusations and claimed his contacts to the underworld were strictly professional.
The reporter was working on a documentary for French TV Canal + about arms trafficking. During his research he was in contact with one of the gang members. When the group was arrested for drug trafficking in 2015, Martinovic was labeled by police as a member of the gang.
“Today’s verdict in Jovo Martinovic’s case, unfortunately, again showed that the Montenegrin courts do not understand the nature of journalistic work,” the EFJ statement quoted Marijana Camović, the President of the Trade Union of Media of Montenegro (TUMM).
The international organization Reporters Without Borderstweeted the verdict was unfair and said Montenegro “violated its obligation to respect freedom of information and infringed the right of a journalist to a fair trial.”
Martinovic told the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network(BIRN), that he was “convicted for being a journalist.”
According to the EFJ, Martinovic was offered by the Special Prosecution Office to sign a false confession in exchange for his release in order for the prosecution to justify their actions.
“If I really had any business with marijuana I would have been acquitted, like all those who are really in the narcotics [business],” he said.
Martinovic previously worked with VICE media group as well as the French CAPA Presse on documentaries about organized crime groups.
“We demand the immediate acquittal of Jovo Martinovic and call on the Court of Appeals to overturn the verdict at the second instance. All charges against him must be dropped,” the EFJ said.