Other newsrooms and journalistic organizations are standing up for journalist Jaroslav Kmenta, who recently devoted himself to the case of the Institute of Clinical and Experimental Medicine (IKEM) and whom the General Inspection of the Security Forces (GIBS) called upon to hand over all the documents related to the article he wrote about the case. Otherwise, GIBS threatened Kment with a fine or the removal of documents. The journalist’s editor-in-chief, Robert Čásenský, and now other journalist associations have already objected to this.
“The protection of freedom of the press is a prerequisite for the functioning of a democratic legal state, and state authorities should therefore refrain from any interference in journalistic work that is not absolutely necessary. This one does not belong to them due to its nature or the characteristics of the requested documents,” states the joint statement of the Association of Online Publishers and the Czech National Committee of the International Press Institute (CZ IPI).
“We remind you that in Press Act No. 46/2000 Coll. the right to protect the source is enshrined, which also applies to the extradition of the thing. We call on the General Inspectorate of Security Forces to respect the principles of journalistic work, protection of sources and not to put pressure on journalists,” they added. Libor Matoušek signed the challenge for the association, Zuzana Vlasatá for CZ IPI.
Already on Thursday, Robert Čásenský, editor-in-chief and managing director of the magazine Reporter, opposed the GIBS procedure in an open letter. In an open letter to the director of GIBS, Vít Hendrych, he stated that such a procedure by GIBS is unacceptable coercion. He also sent a copy of the letter to Prime Minister Petar Fial (ODS), whose spokesman subsequently rejected hints about the politicization of GIBS.
Čásenský said that Kment’s article raises questions about the involvement of GIBS in the case and the assessment of all the circumstances. He reminded that, according to the Press Act, the publisher is responsible for the content of the publication, and therefore the law enforcement authorities usually request information or materials from the publisher, not from the author. That did not happen in this case. “The GIBS High Commissioner is contacting the author of the text directly. At the same time, he is informed by the High Commissioner that if he does not hand over the requested materials, he can be officially confiscated and he can be fined up to CZK 50,000,” Čásenský wrote.
According to him, this procedure creates a clear impression of pressure from GIBS on the author of the text, who was critical of the role of GIBS in a specific case. According to the editor-in-chief, the investigator also requests materials that he can obtain otherwise. Kmenta, after consulting with the legal representative, decided not to comply with the call to release the documents, Čásenský added. He believes that this action on the part of GIBS was more the fault of an individual.
Kmenta considers the GIBS approach a coercive action. “I had no idea that under the government of the ‘democratic Pěticoalice’ and Petr Fiala, I would experience the same coercive actions as during the era of Andrej Babiš. GIBS torn from the chain,” said an editor on the X network. The government spokesman Václav Smolka subsequently objected to his statement. “The Prime Minister strongly opposes any suggestion of politicization towards GIBS. Neither the government nor its chairman directs or mandates the activities of GIBS. The investigation of criminal activity and any interference in this matter do not belong to politicians,” he emphasized. The Director of GIBS is responsible to the Prime Minister, who appoints him. “However, it does not and must not follow that anyone from the government level should interfere in the activities of GIBS. All steps taken by GIBS can only be explained by GIBS or the supervising public prosecutor,” the cabinet spokesman added.
At the beginning of October, the police charged former IKEM director Michal Stibork and his deputy Jiří Malý with blackmail. According to the police, Stiborek and Malý exerted pressure on cardiac surgeon Jan Pirek and the head of the IKEM Cardiovascular Surgery Clinic, Ivan Netuka. Together with him, the head of the IT department, Petr Raška, was charged for unauthorized access to the computer system and violation of the confidentiality of documents. In his article about the events at IKEM, Kmenta also deals with the involvement of GIBS in the case of alleged corruption, extortion and manipulation of orders in this top Prague hospital.