The International Press Institute (IPI) and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) today called on Slovak authorities to expedite charges against all parties allegedly involved in the murder of investigative journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancée, Martina Kušnírová. A delegation from the two groups met yesterday in Bratislava with Ministry of Interior officials and representatives of the special prosecutor’s office tasked with investigating the murder, which took place a year ago this week.
Authorities have charged four individuals with carrying out the killing, on February 21, 2018, but they have not publicly identified or charged a suspected mastermind. Officials in the special prosecutor’s office told IPI and CPJ today that their main aim was to “identify and prove guilty” the person or persons who ordered the crime and that they were “very close” to announcing who this was.
“The Slovak authorities must ensure that no stone is unturned in the investigation no matter how politically sensitive those leads could be”, IPI Deputy Director Scott Griffen said. “We are positive about reported progress so far in the investigation – but are concerned about any further delay. Justice will only be achieved when all those responsible are behind bars.”
Kuciak’s work uncovered allegations of tax fraud and financial crime, implicating prominent political and business leaders in Slovakia. The murders sparked the largest protests since the Velvet Revolution and forced the resignation of the former prime minister, interior minister and chief of police. (Read background on the Kuciak killing)
“The sooner Slovak authorities deliver on their promise of justice for Ján Kuciak, the sooner they will address the serious concerns of Slovakia’s journalistic community, its general public, and international institutions about a lack of political will to solve the case”, Tom Gibson, CPJ’s EU representative, said.
Despite some progress in the investigation, recent developments in Slovakia have raised doubts about the possibility of sustainable reforms in the country’s media landscape. An effort to revise the Slovak Press Act to strengthen protection for journalists in the country has recently been jeoparadized by a proposal from ruling SMER party MPs to reintroduce a “right of reply” for politicians.
During yesterday’s meetings, CPJ and IPI also called on the Slovak authorities to ensure journalists’ safety and respect for freedom of the media more broadly.
“Securing justice in the case of Ján Kuciak is essential, but it is also critical that the Slovak authorities put in place an action plan to prevent such attacks from occurring in the future”, Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, said. “Any future success in this investigation should not be an excuse to sweep the issue of journalists’ safety under the rug.”
Both IPI and CPJ visited Slovakia in December 2018 as part of a press freedom mission organized by the Council of Europe’s Platform for the protection of journalism and the safety of journalists. IPI also met with President Andrej Kiska in October 2018. In November, IPI’s 24-member global Executive Board carried out a solidarity visit to the memorial for Kuciak and Kušnírová in Bratislava.