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Police search journalist's house, confiscate computer and other data

(IPI/IFEX) - VIENNA, 18 May 2010 - Police in Latvia on 11 May searched the home of a journalist working for Latvian public TV broadcaster Latvijas Televizija and confiscated her computer, along with other storage media that contained personal information. Latvijas Televizija had broken the story of the leak of millions of documents relating to tax information from the National Revenue Services' online reporting system.

Police searched Ilze Nagla's house, and several others, hoping to find information relating to a shadowy hacker, known only as "Neo", who claimed to have been behind the cyber-attack at the origin of the leak. Neo had contacted Nagla.

A police spokesperson told reporters that the objective of the search had not been to discover the journalist's sources, but "to determine if the journalist's computer contained data from the state revenue service."

The International Press Institute (IPI) is alarmed by the apparent disregard for source protection laws and press freedom demonstrated by the Latvian police in their investigation into the leak.

IPI Director David Dadge said: "It is vital that investigative journalists seeking to provide the public with information be allowed to keep their sources confidential. The search of Ilze Nagla's house appears to be in blatant contradiction not only with the Latvian Press Act, but with the universal principle of a free media."

A shadowy group known as "The Popular Army of the Fourth Awakening", led by cyber-vigilante "Neo", claimed responsibility for the attack. It was later established that gaps in the security of the NRS website had been exploited.

The hacker published elements of the information on the Internet, including details about the pay of public sector officials and high-ranking government employees.

On 12 May, police in Latvia announced that they had arrested a person they alleged was "Neo", based on evidence gathered from the searches.

Local media identified the hacker as Ilmars Poikans, a researcher at the University of Latvia's Institute of Mathematics and Information Sciences. He now faces a prison sentence of up to 10 years.

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