On 19 September 2016, human rights watchdogs have penned an open letter to protest the prolonged detention and prosecution of freelance journalist Jovo Martinović in Montenegro.

Martinović, a Montenegrin investigative reporter who has contributed to a host of international media, including the Financial Times, VICE and the Economist, has been in custody since October 22, 2015, on suspicion of involvement in a drug-trafficking scheme.

Martinović has exposed crime networks, war criminals and the Pink Panthers jewel thief gang and he insisted that he is not guilty and claims his contact with other suspects was linked to his journalistic work.

The Human Rights Watch (HRW), together with the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Reporters Without Borders (RFS) have published a joint letter to the prime minister of Montenegro, Milo Đukanović, demanding the release of Martinović, whose trial has been pending for almost a year.

According to the organizations, no real evidence of his engagement into a criminal activity have been presented, and “the authorities have not offered specific facts or circumstances to justify his continued detention.”

The group say they are concerned that his “prosecution is motivated by his work as an investigative journalist, rather than in response to an alleged criminal act.”

The letter states: “International journalists who have worked with Martinović attest to his integrity and professionalism. They point in particular to his skills at establishing direct sources in criminal organizations…If the prosecution has amassed probative evidence against Martinović, we call on the relevant authorities to give full access to that evidence to Martinović and his legal representatives so they can prepare his legal defense. We also call for Martinović’s release pending the outcome of his trial.”