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Journalists accuse police of intimidating them over Babiš cases

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Prague, April 5 (CTK) – Three Czech investigative reporters, Jaroslav Kmenta, Janek Kroupa and Sabina Slonkova, claim that the police and the General Inspection of Security Corps (GIBS) tried to intimidate them over the cases of PM Andrej Babis in their joint statement released to CTK by Kmenta on Thursday.

The journalists say they were repeatedly questioned by the police in the past few months about the cases in which billionaire businessman and ANO chairman Babis is involved.

The GIBS only generally confirmed that it was looking into possible information leaks from the police files. However, the inspection cannot comment on particular steps in criminal proceedings, GIBS spokesman Ivo Mitacek told CTK.

The police raised objections to the reporters’ statement.

Kmenta, from the Reporter magazine, Kroupa, from the public Czech Radio, and Slonkova, from the server, point out that the GIBS and the police sent them a series of summons to questionings over the alleged information leaks from the police files and investigated cases though they had already testified on the matters in the respective offices.

“We are convinced that these investigations are to confuse and intimidate us and our sources and discourage us from further work,” the journalists write.

According to them, these steps are “apparently coordinated” and their side effect is to criminalise investigative journalism.

“We do not know who has kicked off the whole operation. We only know that the cases due to which all three of us are currently being summoned are connected with one person: Prime Minister in resignation Andrej Babis,” they write.

The reporters add that the checked leaks concern the case of the Capi hnizdo farm and conference centre in which Babis is prosecuted on suspicion of an EU subsidy fraud, the release of information on the Babis cases on the Twitter account of the Julius Suman group and “old police files from the times when the current ANO movement leader was building up his business empire.”

The three journalists deny being a part of some conspiracy with the aim to remove Babis from politics, as he put it himself.

“We call on the authorities within the police and state attorney’s offices not to succumb to politicians’ pressure and not to look for treads of some conspiracies masterminded on political order, but to deal with disclosing a real crime that is depriving the state of money,” the journalists write in their statement.

The GIBS’s work is supervised by the respective state attorney from the High State Attorney’s Office in Prague, Mitasek said.

“We are not authorised to comment on subjective perception of procedural steps by particular participants in the proceedings,” he said.

“The police of the Czech Republic are not intimidating anyone. Their work always follows the purpose of criminal proceedings that are supervised by the respective state attorney’s office,” the police tweeted.

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