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Amendments to Criminal Code inhibit investigative journalism, says WAN

In an 11 May 2009 letter to President Václav Klaus, WAN expresses concern over amendments to the Criminal Code which introduce prison sentences and massive fines for journalists for publishing information generated by criminal proceedings.

(WAN/IFEX)

His Excellency Václav Klaus
President of the Czech Republic
Prague, Czech Republic

11 May 2009

Your Excellency,

We are writing on behalf of the World Association of Newspapers and the World Editors Forum, which represent 18,000 publications in 102 countries, to express our serious concern at amendments to the Criminal Code which introduce prison sentences and massive fines for journalists for publishing information generated by criminal proceedings.

The Czech Parliament's Act No. 52/2009, amending the Criminal Code, came into force on 1 April 2009. It introduces jail sentences of up to five years or a fine of up to 5 million Czech crowns (about 185,000 Euros) for journalists using sources of information that are often employed in investigative journalism, in particular, records of police telephone tapping. The amendments were proposed after the media published transcripts of secret police recordings taken during investigations into alleged links between politicians and criminal gangs.

We are seriously concerned that the amendment threatens press freedom as it will inhibit investigative journalism. While we support the aim of the amendments - to protect victims of crime - introducing jail sentences and fines for journalists who are reporting on matters of public interest is retrogressive.

In the month when we mark World Press Freedom Day, and in the year commemorating the 20th anniversary of the events in the Czech Republic that led to the establishment of freedom and democracy in Central Europe, we respectfully call on you to do everything possible to amend the provisions of the Criminal Code that are harmful to press freedom.

We look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.

Yours sincerely,

Gavin O'Reilly
President
World Association of Newspapers

Xavier Vidal-Folch
President
World Editors Forum

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