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news 20 Apr 16

Montenegro Crime Reporter Charged With Drug Trafficking

Jovo Martinovic, an investigative journalist who has exposed crime networks, war criminals and robberies, has been charged with aiding and belonging to a drugs-trafficking gang.

Dusica Tomovic
BIRN
Podgorica
Jovo Martinovic | Photo: Courtesy of Eric Jansson

Montenegro's Special Prosecutor's Office for organized crime confirmed to BIRN that it has indicted journalist Jovo Martinovic with aiding drugs trafficking.

A media watchdog had urged the authorities to consider his journalistic work as a possible explanation for his alleged contacts with drug traffickers while many other testimonies in his support have come from prominent journalists all over the world.

Martinovic has been custody since his arrest last October, alongside 17 others from Montenegro, nabbed in a joint operation with Croatian police.

Prosecutors told BIRN that all the detainees were charged with membership of a criminal organization and with drugs trafficking.

Martinovic has insisted he is not guilty, saying that his contacts with the other suspects were purely linked to his work as a journalist.

According to the Special Public Prosecutor's Office's investigation of last October, which BIRN has seen, Martinovic is suspected of "helping to form a drugs smuggling ring" and of being a member of that ring.

BIRN reported last Friday that Martinovic had interactions with two of the other 17 suspects in the alleged drug-trafficking schem as part of his journalistic work. They were Dusko Martinovic - no relation - and Namik Selmanovic.

Dusko Martinović, the main suspect, is also a convicted member of the "Pink Panther"  thieves gang, and Jovo Martinovic worked with him on a series of TV shows by the VICE media group about the thieves.

He worked alongside Selmanovic when French production company CAPA Presse hired them to contribute to research on a documentary about weapons smuggling.

A media watchdog, the Committee to Protect Journalists, CPJ, wrote to Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic on Tuesday, calling for Martinovic to be freed.

"We are writing to alert you to this journalist's almost six-month-long detention without charge and call for his immediate release," the CPJ letter said.

"Given Jovo Martinovic's reputation for professional integrity, his prominence, and his record of meeting a wide variety of people in the course of his work as a reporter, we ask that you instruct relevant authorities either to produce evidence to justify the journalist's continued detention and to charge him, or to release him," the letter signed by Joel Simon, director of the CPJ, said.

The letter quoted testimonies from several prominent journalists who have worked with Martinovic and who vouched for his professional integrity.

They include Matthew McAllester, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and current editor of Newsweek Europe, who recalled Martinovic's help in reporting on war criminals in the Balkans.

"One of Jovo's great talents is finding people involved in criminal activity and persuading them to speak to foreign journalists," McAllester told CPJ.

Last month, CPJ wrote a private letter to Chief Special Prosecutor Milivoje Katnic, asking for Martinovic's release on bail pending the completion of the investigation, but received no response.

Other high-level testimonies in support of the journalist have come from Bruce Clark, of the Economist, Till Krause of the Suddeutsche Zeitung, Michael Montgomery of the Center for Investigative Reporting and Philip Sherwell of the Daily Telegraph.

Krause described Martinovic as "one of the most dedicated and responsible journalists I have ever worked with".

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