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19th Apr 2021

EU expects fair trial for Montenegro journalist

  • Jovo Martinović was investigating arms-trafficking in the Balkans (Photo: un.org)

Montenegro's bid to the join the EU is under closer scrutiny following its treatment of an investigative journalist.

Investigative journalist Jovo Martinović, who has already spent 15 months in custody, recently had his appeal rejected by a court.

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"We expect that Mr Martinović is given a fair trial," said the European Commission on Wednesday (31 March), when pressed to comment.

The European Commission had in the past faulted the Balkan nation for free expression shortfalls.

Its 2020 report on the country noted that "Montenegro made no progress on freedom of expression."

It reiterated its position again on Wednesday, noting that the issue is part of Montenegro's bid to join the European Union.

"Journalists should be able to perform their duties professionally and without fear of legal repercussions," said a European Commission spokesperson.

Numerous organisations and defenders of journalists have spoken out against Montengero's treatment of Martinović.

Martinović was arrested in 2015 while researching arms-trafficking in the Balkans.

He was charged with setting up a criminal organisation. A retrial was launched in December 2019.

He was acquitted of being part of a criminal organisation in October 2020 but was then sentenced to one year in prison for drug trafficking.

He lost his appeal earlier this week. Martinović will not be returned to prison because of time already served in pre-trial detention.

But he will have a criminal record, which critics says aims to create a chilling effect for other investigative journalists in Montenegro.

"Investigative journalism is not a crime and should not be treated as such by the Montenegrin authorities," said a dozen NGOs, including Reporters without Borders, in a joint statement.

They say the case against Martinović is a "politically-motivated judicial persecution".

Martinović's work has appeared in the The Economist, Vice News and The Financial Times, among others.

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