May 16, 2018 - Updated on May 17, 2018

Czech reporter forced to reveal sources to Kuciak murder investigators

Pavla Holcová, Jan Kuciak and his partner, Martina Kusnirova.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns yesterday’s confiscation of Czech journalist Pavla Holcová’s smartphone by police investigating Slovak journalist Ján Kuciak’s murder. RSF demands the return of the phone and its contents, and urges the Slovak police to focus on what they are supposed to be doing instead going after unrelated targets.

Holcová, who works for the Czech Centre for Investigative Reporting, had been invited to meet with police yesterday in the hope that she could provide information that might help the investigation into Kuciak’s murder last February. She and Kuciak had been cooperating in the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP).

But yesterday’s meeting turned into an interrogation. She was questioned for eight hours by police officers who not only wanted to know the contents of the messages she had exchanged with Kuciak – which she had already provided of her own free will – but also messages she had exchanged with other contacts who have no conceivable link with the murder.

When Holcová, who is working on sensitive cases as an OCCRP network member, refused to reveal her sources, the police presented her a special prosecutor’s order for the confiscation of her smartphone with aim of “extracting data” from it.

“We call on the Slovak police to return Pavla Holcová’s telephone, which was seized with the official aim of extracting information she had already given them,” said Pauline Adès-Mevel, the head of RSF’s EU-Balkans desk.

“The police must refrain from going after the wrong targets. The need to investigate the double murder of Ján Kuciak and his fiancée must not be used as a pretext for harassing an investigative reporter and her sources, whose protection must be safeguarded."

Slovakia has fallen sharply in RSF's latest World Press Freedom Index and is now ranked 27th out of 180 countries. The murder of Kuciak, who would have turned 28 tomorrow, has highlighted the many problems that journalists face in Slovakia.