Supporting People who Speak Out

Slovak Journalist’s Murder Seen Tied to Investigative Reporting

European Union officials fear the murder of a Slovak journalist, coming after the recent killing of Malta’s best-known investigative journalist, could create a chilling effect on reporters and target democracy.Jan Kuciak, 27, reported for the news site on fraud cases, often involving businessmen with connections to Slovakia’s ruling party and other politicians. He and his girlfriend were found dead Feb. 25 at his home in Velka Maca, 65 kilometers east of the capital Bratislava. The shooting deaths renewed worries about corruption in the European Union and was condemned by Aktuality’s publisher Axel Springer as a “cruel assassination” and by the international group Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

The killing came two weeks after Kuciak reported on transactions by firms linked to businessman Marian Kocner, tied to a Bratislava luxury apartment complex and a political scandal in 2017. Kocner told the Slovak public broadcaster he had no connection to that case. “If it is proven that the death of the investigative reporter was connected with his journalistic work, it would be an unprecedented attack on freedom of speech and democracy in Slovakia,” Prime Minister Robert Fico said. The government offered a one-million euro reward for information leading to an arrest with police saying the murder was likely connected to Kuciak’s work and suspected Italian Mafia abuse of EU funds with a Fico advisor reportedly being looked at.

A group of editors of Slovak publications called on the state to solve the case and protect journalists. Fico called an emergency meeting with the Attorney General, Chief of Police and head of the state intelligence service. “Shocked by the murder of a journalist in the EU. No democracy can survive without the free press, which is why journalists deserve respect and protection,” Deputy European Commission chief Frans Timmermans tweeted. “Justice must be served.”

image © Tomáš Benedikovič 2018