The International Press Institute (IPI) today strongly condemned the murder of Slovak investigative journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancée.
Slovak police said at a press conference this morning that they believed the murder to be work-related. Kuciak worked for the online investigative news outlet Aktuality.sk. The 27-year-old journalist was known in particular for his stories on tax fraud and shady real estate deals that involved several Slovak businessmen with close connections to the ruling party. He also wrote stories related to Slovakia as part of the Panama Papers investigation.
Kuciak and his fiancée, Martina Kušnírová, were found shot dead on Sunday in the town of Veľká Mača with bullet wounds to the chest and head, respectively. Police indicated that the time of death is currently unclear.
According to Slovak media, Kuciak had received threats from a Slovak businessmen last autumn, apparently in connection with his reporting on suspicious business activity. Kuciak reported those threats to the police, but after over a month posted on Facebook that his criminal complaint had not been answered.
“IPI is shocked by this brutal crime and we extend our deepest sympathies to the family, friends and colleagues of Jan Kuciak and his fiancée”, IPI Executive Director Barbara Trionfi said.
“This killing, which comes so soon after last year’s assassination of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, is a terrible sign for journalism in the EU and underscores the risks that journalists continue to face, even in democratic states such as Slovakia. We must now double down on our efforts to protect the safety of journalists.”
“The murder of a journalist is a crime not only against the victim, but also against society as a whole. It is the most direct way of silencing critical voices and depriving the people of their right to information, especially about the activities of those in power. The Slovak authorities must immediately investigate this horrendous act and send a clear messages that attacks against journalists are unacceptable and that those responsible will be brought to justice.”
In a joint statement, a group of Slovak editors-in-chief, including IPI Executive Board Member and daily SME Editor-in-Chief Beata Balogová, said that Kuciak’s murder was a “serious sign that crime is turning against one of the most important pillars of freedom: freedom of speech and the right of citizens to control those in power and those who disrespect the law”.
The editors of .týždeň, Košice Today, Denník N, New Time, Plus 1 day, Radio Expres, Trend, RTVS, Pravda, Hospodárske noviny and Corsair also signed the statement.
The owner of Aktuality.sk, the publisher Ringier Axel Springer, mourned Kuciak’s loss in a statement. The company described the “vicious execution” of Kuciak and his fiancée as “shocking” and “terriying” and offered its sympathies to the victims’ family, friends and colleagues.
“We will do everything in our power to support investigation and identification of the culprits”, the statement said. “If this crime was an attempt to discourage an independent publisher such as Ringier Axel Springer not to pursue revelations about breaking the law, we will use this occasion for further strengthening of our journalistic responsibility.”
Kuciak held a journalism degree from Constantine the Philosopher University in Nitra, where he was also doing postgraduate studies.
This statement will be updated as information becomes available.