The European and International Federations of Journalists, EFJ/IFJ, together with the Media Union of Montenegro, have called for the release of the investigative journalist Jovo Martinovic, urging the Montenegrin courts to ensure him a fair trial.
They say the case of the reporter, who has been behind bars for almost a year, has given rise to deep concern about the court proceedings.
He is charged with membership of a criminal organisation and with drug trafficking.
In a letter to Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic, which BIRN has seen, EFJ president Mogens Blicher Bjerregard and IFJ president Philippe Leruth urge the authorities to consider his journalistic work as an explanation for his alleged contacts with drug traffickers.
Martinovic has insisted he is not guilty, saying his contacts with the other suspects were purely linked to his work as a journalist. His interactions with two of the other 17 suspects in the alleged drug-trafficking were part of his journalistic work," they said.
We are shocked by the gravity of his possible sentence to more than 10 years in prison," the letter added.
Martinovic was detained on suspicion of participating in a drug trafficking ring last October.
He has always insisted that his contacts with the other suspects were solely linked to his work as a journalist.
BIRN reported in April that Martinovic had interactions with two of the other 17 suspects in the alleged drug-trafficking scheme as part of his journalistic work. They were Dusko Martinovic - no relation - and Namik Selmanovic.
Dusko Martinovic, the main suspect, is also a convicted member of the "Pink Panther" thieves gang. Jovo Martinovic worked with him on a series of TV shows by the VICE media group about the robbers.
He worked alongside Selmanovic when the French production company CAPA Presse hired them to contribute to research on a documentary about weapons smuggling.
The EFJ/IFJ letter was sent after Dusko Martinovic, the main suspect, claimed that the prosecution "blackmailed" him to falsely accuse the journalist of being a member of the drug ring. The local daily Vijesti reported that in return, prosecutors offered Dusko Martinovic the chance to sign a plea and obtain a shorter prison sentence.
The prosecution last week refuted the allegations, saying that all the activities of the special prosecutor for organized crime, Mira Samardzic, regarding the collection of evidence or plea agreements by any of the defendants, ceased on the day of the indictment, on April 8.
According to the findings of the prosecution, it collected enough credible evidence for all of the defendants," the prosecution said.
The other issue over which Jovo Martinovic’s lawyers have complained is the length of the pre-trial procedures.
He was indicted in April but the trial has still not been scheduled nor have his legal representatives received the documentation to prepare his defence.
The letter sent to Djukanovic urged the authorities to submit the case files as soon as possible and allow Jovo Martinović to prepare his defence at liberty.
"We demand that Jovo Martinovic be out on pre-trial release and that custody is not converted into imprisonment before the trial has even started," the letter reads.
The prosecution said it had submitted all the files to the Higher Court in Podgorica but had meanwhile launched a new financial investigation, marked "secret", whose activities should not "be confused with the investigation that preceded the indictment in April".