(European Federation of Journalists) Investigative journalist Pavla Holcova, former colleague of Jan Kuciak and founder of the Czech Center for Investigative Reporting, was interrogated by the Slovak National Crime Agency during eight hours on Tuesday 15 May, after which her phone was seized.
Ms Holcova had been working with Jan Kuciak on behalf of the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) when he was murdered and had therefore previously helped police telling what she knew. She first believed this new summons was another meeting to help investigating the murder of Jan Kuciak. But the interrogation lasted over eight hours and was not about Kuciak’s killing. In fact, Slovak police seemed interested in the OCCRP’s internal communication after his death and other information not relevant to the murder investigation.
“It was an eight-hour exhaustive hearing. They did not explain why they needed my phone,”said Pavla Holcová to Aktuality.sk.
Holcova was asked to give all of her messages recorded after the murder and was threatened to pay a 1.650 euros fine if she didn’t cooperate. She refused to give her phone as she said it didn’t contain any information relevant to the investigation and stated that she previously volontureed to share all the details she had. The journalist was holding personal data that could be used against her colleagues and sources. Finally, Pavla Holcova had her phone confiscated by the authorities. The police officers showed a prosecutor’s order to seize it.
The EFJ joins the OCCRP in asking the Slovak police to immediately return the phone and to not interfere with the work of investigative journalists.
“Intimidation of journalists and violation of the protection of journalistic sources must not be tolerated in an EU country. The Slovak authorities must do its utmost to solve the case and inform the public about the progress of the investigation”, EFJ President Mogens Blicher Bjerregård says.
Jan Kuciak was murdered by a single bullet on 25 February 2018 alongside his partner Martina Kusnirovaat their home in Slovakia. Kuciak was working with the OCCRP on an investigation that delved into the infiltration into Slovakia of the Ndrangheta mafia, one of the world’s most powerful and fearsome criminal groups.
Featured image: Aktuality.sk