New York, January 20, 2004–The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) condemns this weekend’s attack on Tomas Nemecek, editor-in-chief of the independent weekly Respekt, which is based in the Czech Republic’s capital, Prague.
On Saturday, January 17, two unidentified men in their early 20s assaulted Nemecek while he was leaving a grocery store near his home in Prague. The men sprayed tear gas in Nemecek’s face, threw him to the ground, and repeatedly kicked him in the head and chest, according to local press reports.
Nemecek was hospitalized with cuts, bruises, and a minor concussion, said Katerina Safarikova, head of Respekt‘s economics department.
The police have initiated an investigation into the incident but have not determined the motive of the attackers, according to local press reports.
Safarikova pointed out that Nemecek was not robbed and said she and her colleagues believe that the attack could be related to the weekly’s investigations. Respekt published a series of articles in recent weeks highlighting the failure of the police in the northern Bohemian towns of Most and Litvinov to crack down on criminal gangs extorting money from local businesses, Safarikova said. She told CPJ that other Czech media picked up the story, highlighting the inability or unwillingness of the local police to investigate the gangs.
Respekt is known for exposing corruption and has faced numerous politically motivated lawsuits stemming from its critical reporting. Three days prior to the attack, on January 14, the Prague Court ordered Respekt to apologize to Interior Minister Stanislav Gross for writing about his alleged phone calls to a brothel, the Czech News Agency reported.
“The Czech government cannot allow journalists to be intimidated,” said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper. “Attacks must be promptly investigated and those responsible must be punished.”