The witness hearing took place on Monday at the Organised Crime unit of the Hungarian Police – we did not reveal the sources of information on the Brokernet hacker case. After the hearing police seized a hard disk at the flat of Tamás Bodoky, editor-in-chief of Atlatszo.hu.
In the beginning of the hearing the police (truly) kindly assured us that they do not want to take action against the press and journalists, all they just want to solve a blackmail case. Kindness changed to a cold distant behavior when we maintained our opinion that according to the Hungarian law, the European Convention on Human Rights and the practice of the European Court of Human Rights, journalists have the right to keep the sources of information secret. The investigating authorities started to suggest that keeping the confidentiality of informants is perjury, or even aiding or abetting in the blackmailing. We can only hope that the contents of our complaints – published below – will convince the police that the initiation of criminal procedure against journalists is not the way to effective investigation.
If a source cannot be sure that his or her identity will not be revealed, he or she will not inform the press about matters, which indeed belongs to the public. This is a restriction of the freedom of the press, which should be treated exceptionally carefully in a democratic society. Hungarian police made no attempt to determine why is it “exceptionally justified” to force the journalist to reveal its sources, although it is their legal obligation according to hungarian law.
Furthermore we do not understand that if the investigating authorities have the stolen files from the hacked Brokernet system, they should know that metadata does not contain information referring to the principals of the crime due to information technology features (text files), so why they seized a journalist’s external HDD as evidence.
Regardless of the legal regulations we believe our position is morally defensible too. After all unauthorized persons stole personal data from a major financial enterprise’s information system- which they failed to inform the public, although a very wide range of customers affected, and therefore it is a public matter. There is a chance that blackmail was possible because the company did not inform the public, since then it would not really make sense for the intruders to blackmail. Atlatszo.hu only did what the duty of the press is: disclosed what concerns the public.
In order to do that later on, we will stick to the principle that our sources will not be revealed.
And now the documents of the hearing follow: