On the sixth anniversary of the murder of Slovak investigative journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancee Martina Kušnírová, the International Press Institute (IPI) and Central European Independent Media Network (CEE) members stand firm in solidarity with the families of Ján and Martina and all those who continue to seek full justice. In the wake of recent attacks on journalists by members of Slovakia’s ruling SMER party, IPI and CEE editors also express alarm at the growing threat to press freedom in Slovakia.

Today, IPI and the undersigned editors from the region join the Investigative Centre of Ján Kuciak (ICJK) and the wider Slovak media and civil society community in marking this sombre anniversary. Remembering Ján and Martina, the whole IPI expresses its deepest condolences to their loved ones and colleagues, who continue to endure the pain of their loss. 

There can be no peace until those who ordered his murder are held fully accountable. While four people have been convicted of the murder, the suspected mastermind, businessman Marian Kočner, was shockingly found not guilty in a May 2023 retrial. As the Slovak Supreme Court prepares to hear the prosecutors’ appeal, IPI continues to emphasise the need for the courts to take into account all the evidence to ensure the architect of the murder is brought to justice.

Moreover, we note with growing dismay the steady regression for press freedom in Slovakia as the same political leaders who attacked and harassed journalists prior to Kuciak’s murder are now recreating a hostile atmosphere against journalists and undermining their safety.

Ján’s boss Peter Bárdy, editor-in-chief of Aktuality.sk, stated:

“Even six years after the murder, Slovak political representatives do not want to accept the fact that free media and professional journalists working in the public interest are one of the pillars of democracy. And that this status quo must be protected. That was the case of Ján Kuciak, whose greatest loyalty was to the public. This is contrary to how today’s governing politicians perceive the media. I am only sorry that by attacking journalists and relativizing his murder, the memory of young people who lost their lives at the hands of a cold-blooded assassin is being harmed.”

Politicians from the party led by Prime Minister Robert Fico, who returned to power in September 2023, have discredited and threatened legal action against journalists and news outlets such as Aktuality.sk and Denník N. Fico, in a series of public addresses, labelled major media outlets as enemies and threatened to withdraw state advertising funds from TV Markiza. Meanwhile, the budget for the public media was slashed and is increasingly referred to as state media by Andrej Danko, leader of the SNS coalition party. These incidents are part of a broader context of escalating threats to journalist safety and press freedom in Slovakia, further exemplified by the personal attacks and harassment against Zuzana Kovačič Hanzelová of Daily SME. 

Beata Balogová, editor-in-chief of SME, said:

“Robert Fico and his government have intensified attacks on the free press in Slovakia. He refuses to respond to questions from independent media, instead he talks to misinformation sites with dubious ownership. People from his party are harassing journalists with online attacks or filming them on the street. The most recent cases are verbal attacks at Zuzana Kovačič Hanzelová while spreading lies about her private life. One of the trolls even published her phone number. SMER also filed a criminal complaint against Milan M Šimečka – a long time journalist and father of the leader of an opposition party over an alleged defamation of the nation.
Robert Fico now pursues a state propaganda empire similar to what Viktor Orban built in Hungary. In order to complete his destruction of the rule of law and demolition of democratic institutions he needs to silence critical media. But we journalists in Slovakia will not remain silent – we have our professional honour and an obligation to Ján Kuciak.”

The Slovak government must uphold media freedom and independence, refrain from targeting, harassing, and smearing journalists, and allow the press to fulfil its watchdog function without intimidation. IPI remains dedicated to advocating for justice in Ján and Martina’s case as in every instance where journalists’ safety is threatened, and standing against any form of political intimidation or interference with the media. 


Beata Balogová, SME daily, Slovakia

Peter Bardy, Aktuality.sk, Slovakia

Piotr Stasiński, Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland

Vojtěch Berger, HlídacíPes.org, Czech Republic

Marton Karpati founder and president of Telex.hu, Hungary

Ali Žerdin, Sobotna priloga, Delo, Slovenia

Alexei Lazarov, Capital, Bulgaria

This statement is part of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), a Europe-wide mechanism which tracks, monitors and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States, Candidate Countries, and Ukraine. The project is co-funded by the European Commission.