Four people have been arrested for plotting to murder one of the country's best-known journalists, Sabina Slonkova, the Czech interior ministry announced today. Slonkova, who works for the daily paper Dnes, recently investigated embezzlement connected with an Hotel owned by the Czech foreign ministry in Moscow. The plan had been to kill her on 17 July.
"This is an extremely serious development," said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard in a letter to interior minister Stanislav Gross. "We ask you to see that nobody escapes punishment, whatever their position, especially if it is true that one or more top foreign ministry officials ordered the murder or knew about the plan." The former secretary-general of the Czech foreign ministry, Karel Srba, is reportedly among those arrested.
"The Czech Republic must firmly turn the page on practices still common in Russia and the former Soviet Union," Ménard said. "With only a few months to go before the country joins the European Union, the police and courts must indicate, through exemplary measures, that they will no longer comprise where press freedom is concerned."
The arrest of the four suspects was made by the organised crime unit of the interior ministry, which said it was the country's first case of a plot to kill a journalist.