EPA condemns Slovakia police’s treatment of Czech journalist Pavla Holcova

Last week Europe saw an exceptional case of human rights violation. On Tuesday, a Czech investigative journalist Pavla Holcova was summoned by Slovakian law enforcers for an interview over the investigation of journalist Jan Kuciak’s murder happened back in February. She was interrogated for eight hours and released only after her phone was confiscated.

Pavla Holcova worked closely with Jan Kuciak, who had been investigating the activities of Italian organized crime in Slovakia. He and his fiancée, Martina Kusnirova, were killed at their home in February. The murder caused protests in Slovakia and all Europe and led to the resignation of the Slovakian PM.

After the assassination, the Czech investigative journalist has voluntarily cooperated with the investigation since its early stages. When she was invited to Slovakia by the National Crime Agency, she thought it would be just a friendly discussion about the case. She took a train from Praha to Bratislava and came to the police.

“I agreed to go to Slovakia for the interview as a witness to the case and I was really trying to help,” Holcova said. “Instead, I ended up being interrogated for eight hours.”

During the interrogation, the authorities acted like Holcova was under investigation. They asked her about her working methods, the intentions of other media reporting the issue and the Organized Crime and the internal communications of Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), which Holcova-founded Czech Center for Investigative Reporting collaborates with. The journalist was also blamed for reporting “always against the system”, and was released not before her phone was confiscated. According to the Guardian, the police first made an attempt to download information from it threatening Holcova with a €1,650 fine if she refused to cooperate. When the download attempt failed, law enforcers came up with a prosecutor’s order to seize the phone.

As Holcova said, her phone contained no information that she hadn’t previously voluntarily told the police. The National Crime Agency is said not to reveal when the journalist’s phone will be returned.

The Slovakian authorities seem to be interested not in investigating into Jan Kuciak’s murder but in impeding other journalists from interfering in criminal issues. The incident in Bratislava is a disgraceful act of harassment of journalists who do their job in an attempt to make our world safer and less violent. The EPA joins quite a number of European organizations in condemning the shameful incident with Pavla Holcova and expresses full support for her, her family and colleagues.

Photo: TV Nova