2002 was marked by a plot to kill an investigative journalist involving a former top foreign ministry official as well as the dismissal on 27 November of the head of the state-controlled TV station CT. Balvin’s appointment in May 2001 had helped restore calm after strikes at the station. Officially sacked for bad management, he had been dealt a blow by the discovery in June of concealed cameras and microphones to monitor employees.
At the end of the year, the Prague offices of the US government’s Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty (RFE-RL) were still under tight police guard for fear of post 11September attacks and the station was negotiating with the authorities to move to a less exposed site.
Pressure and obstruction
The interior ministry announced on 22 July the arrest of four people suspected of plotting the murder on 17 July of Sabina Slonkova, a well-known investigative journalist with the daily paper Mlada Fronta Dnes. Among them was the former secretary-general of the Czech foreign ministry, Karel Srba, who had been forced to resign in March 2001 after stories by Slonkova and another reporter, Jiri Kubik, about the foreign ministry’s suspicious renting and operation of a profitable hotel and restaurant in Moscow. The deal had been approved by foreign minister Jan Kavan. The three other suspects in the murder plot - Eva Tomsovicova, Michal Novotny and Petr Volf - were reportedly police informers. Srba’s trial was due to start in March 2003.
The government rejected on 5 August 2002 a senate amendment of the public access to information law. The amendment would have forbidden government officials to refuse information to private individuals on grounds of professional secrecy and protection of personal data.