Alice Dvorská works as activist on different aspects of "globalization" and is press agent of INPEG. After her presentation at the World-Information Forum in Vienna, she spoke about state repression on political activists in the Czech Republic.
Q: Since the formation of the political movement against IMF and World Bank the number of people demonstrating assumed new proportions in Prague in 2000. Do you think that there are special conditions in the Czech Republic, which made it possible that so many people joined?
A: I think that you have to know that these 12.000 people demonstrating in Prague weren't Czech, I guess there were not more than 4.000 Czech people among them. Yet I think it was a good success for us and you are right that it was the first demonstration of this kind in central-eastern Europe or in former Soviet countries. But I am not aware of any special conditions because two years ago nobody from us activists knew anything about the IMF or World Bank. We only knew that they existed and that was all. The whole globalization issue was brought up only three years ago, so it isn't very old in the Czech Republic. Yet we had to do something and we knew that the summit of IMF and World Bank in Prague presented a great opportunity. These international activists would come and do it on their own. So we said: "O.K., this is the Czech Republic and we also have to articulate the Czech Republics view." Almost everybody expected this. But I don't know if that are special conditions. I mean these conditions are everywhere. And if you aren't powerful enough to organize it on yourself you can call for international help, which we did because the Czech movement wasn't able to do it on its own.
Q: In your lecture you mentioned that through organizing the events you were able to establish contact to other international, alternative organizations.
A: We had some contacts before, but as it took more than a year of organizing, we were able to intensify our contacts during that period. We also held international meetings in Prague so we knew these people personally and the nearer the summit came the more contacts we got. At the end it were hundreds of e-mails every day.
Q: The Indymedia and INPEG websites reported daily about the demonstrations in Prague and published details, which were not covered by the international press. These websites also informed the public that a great number of people were seriously injured in prison by Czech police officers.
A: The interesting thing is that the police was really brutal only against international activists. We didn't have any Czech person injured in prison. This is also a tactic by the police because the international activists sooner or later leave the Czech Republic and it's more complicated for them to act against the Czech police than for Czech people.
Q: But as a negative side effect, this also drew a lot of international attention.
A: The police are very brutal in the Czech Republic but when you speak with people from Turkey you can't compare it; Turkey is a complete different country. When there was for example the global street-party two and a half years ago people were seriously injured and also in prison. The police are still brutal, but less than in the case of this incident. I mean they take more care that the public does not get to know about it.
Q: Do you suspect the police of targeting specific individuals? Do they know about people's background or just pick up anyone who would be in the area?
A: After the 26th they picked up anyone on the streets, they arrested whole demonstrations. At that time the demonstrations consisted of no more than 500 people so they arrested maybe 100 people in five minutes. The other thing is that they of course know who is behind these demonstrations and these are people who are active for years in the Czech Republic. So they know these people and they continuously act against them. The activists are quite aware not to get into any riots or actions the police could use against them. I was a witness three years ago when there was a demonstration against police brutality and the police attacked a guy who was really active and still is. They injured him without any reason; they went straight up to him because they knew that he was the organizer of some actions. But I think the Czech police would be stupid if they would pursue repressions against organizers at this moment because everybody is interested in the issue unlike half a year ago.
Q: Do you think that this is part of their strategy?
A: Three days after the 26th the police was at my home, but they only showed up and then went away. So I think it's also a strategy that I should know that they were watching me.
Q: In terms of communication you mentioned that there was a lot of e-mail communication. Did you actually make the effort to use PGP or any other cryptographic technique?
A: There's still a discussion going on in the Czech Republic if the police tracks phone lines, cellular phones and e-mails. But if we would for example use PGP the police would infiltrate our meetings. I mean it's of course better to use it because like that the police has more work to get the information, but e-mail in general is quite a new thing among Czech activists. So they first had to learn how to use e-mail and nobody thought about PGP. My personal opinion is that you have to take care not to become paranoid and do everything officially. If we had thought about using this and that for communication it just wouldn't have been possible because the police was among us in our meetings. We recognized some of them and threw them out of the meetings, but I am sure there were some that we did not recognize. I'm sure that the police was watching us. So it's normal for me not to include any secret information when I make phone calls or write e-mails. But when you start getting paranoid then you don't have time left to work on your actions.
Q: In many cases though, anonymity is crucial for political activists to secure their privacy and to avoid state repression.
A: I can completely understand why people that for example do animal laboratory actions use PGP. They would be stupid no to use it. But when you are planning actions, which are reported in the media or organize meetings with 50 people or international ones with 150 and more participants and not everybody knows each other personally it is not possible to know if it is not infiltrated. But when we are meeting in small groups and doing ALF-actions then this is a really different situation.