Czechoslovak spy worked as lead editor for BBC World Service

A member of the Czechoslovak communist secret service hired Terézia Javorská in the mid-1980s – she then relayed sensitive information to Czechoslovakia. Staff

Written by Staff Published on 03.01.2024 16:21:00 (updated on 03.01.2024) Reading time: 2 minutes

A British news publication has found that a former editor of the BBC Czechoslovak section of the BBC News World Service, Terézia Javorská, was working as a secret spy for the Czechoslovak communist secret service (StB) for 20 years. 

British journalist Tom Kelly of the Daily Mail news site found out that Javorská had been a spy when he had been reviewing the StB archives in Prague recently.

Access to sensitive information

The archival documents reveal that an StB officer, operating under diplomatic cover at the Czechoslovak embassy in London, recruited Javorská in the mid-1980s. This makes her the first known case of a foreign intelligence agent infiltrating the large British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) since the start of the Cold War. Britsh and Czech security experts have expressed deep concern over this unprecedented breach.

Javorská, codenamed Agent Vora, provided valuable information to the StB due to her position as a journalist at the BBC and access to sensitive data. Her access to British politics and collaboration with political refugees who frequently cooperated with the BBC Czechoslovak broadcasting made her a valuable asset to the StB, the Daily Mail says.

Over 10 meetings with communist secret service

According to the available records, Javorská held 13 meetings with her StB handler, sharing intelligence on Czechoslovak emigrants in the U.K. and their activities, as well as providing insights into the inner workings of the Czech and Slovak section of the BBC. The StB officer overseeing her activities noted these details in a report dating back to December 1985, shedding light on the extent of Javorska's collaboration.

The Daily Mail writes that, when planning to meet StB officials in London, Javorská would carry a shopping bag in a specific hand to indicate safety or danger during meetings. She would also exchange codewords related to film directors to communicate covertly. Overseas meetings were arranged through coded postcards sent to a Prague address: the date she wanted to meet was hidden in the number of letters in her final greeting, which indicated the number of weeks later when she would arrive.

Javorská, now 73 years old, immigrated to Britain in 1969 and initially worked as an au pair. Later, she obtained a degree from a London university and joined the BBC in 1976. Over time, she rose to prominent positions within the Czechoslovak section and ultimately became the head of the Slovak section of the BBC World Service, a role she held until 2005, when the BBC decided to discontinue several foreign sections.

Javorská has been incapacitated and in a coma for several years following a car accident. Consequently, her family declined to comment on the revelations from the StB archives when approached by Daily Mail journalists.

The BBC, unaware of these accusations until now, has expressed its commitment to taking them seriously. A spokesperson for the BBC affirmed: "The current management has been made aware of these allegations and will thoroughly investigate the matter."

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