NEW YORK—The sentencing of Montenegrin journalist Jovo Martinovic on drug trafficking and criminal association following his work investigating arms trafficking in the Balkans is an absurd intrusion on journalism in the country, said PEN America in a statement today. 

On January 15, a Montenegrin court convicted Martinovic on charges of drug trafficking and criminal association, and sentenced him to 18 months in prison. Martinovic denied the accusations and claimed his contacts to the underworld were related to an investigation into arms trafficking in the Balkans he was undertaking for a French TV production company. Martinovic was arrested in October 2015 while working on the investigation and held in preventive detention for 15 months until being granted conditional release.  He is currently free pending appeal.  

“It seems clear that Martinovic’s conviction and sentence is intended to intimidate and chill the Montenegrin press,” said Polina Kovaleva, PEN America Eurasia Project Director. “Martinovic was engaged in vital investigative journalism on a matter of significant public interest, and he is being punished for it. His conviction sends a disturbing message about the state of press freedom in Montenegro, especially for a country with ambitions to join the EU. We hope the appeal process will provide an opportunity for the truth to prevail.” 

In May, 2018 another investigative journalist Olivera Lakić from Montenegro was shot and wounded in Podgorica by an unidentified assailant. The attack on Lakić also comes on the heels of the assassinations of two investigative journalists in Europe in recent years: Daphne Caruana Galizia in Malta in October 2017, and Ján Kuciak in Slovakia in February 2018.

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PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. pen.org

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