The International Press Institute (IPI), a global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists for press freedom, today welcomed the bringing of official charges against four suspects, including the alleged mastermind, in the February 2018 murder of Slovak journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancée, Martina Kušnírová.
The Slovak Special Prosecutor’s Office said today it filed an indictment against Alena Zsuzsová, Tomáš Szabó and Miroslav Marček as well as Marian Kočner, the controversial businessman accused of ordering the murder. They face up to 25 years in prison or a life sentence. A fifth suspect, Zoltán Andruskó, has reached a plea deal with prosecutors to serve as a witness and his case is behind handled separately. All five are currently in custody.
According to Slovak media, today’s step indicates that the authorities have completed their investigation and are confident of a conviction.
“The filing of official charges is a welcome step toward achieving justice for Ján Kuciak and Martina Kušnírová and reinforces trust in the will of police and prosecutors to secure that aim”, IPI Deputy Director Scott Griffen said. “But there is still a long way to go. The only acceptable outcome if for all those responsible for this crime according to the evidence are convicted and jailed.”
Globally, at least 28 reporters were killed in targeted attacks in 2018, according to IPI research. It is exceedingly rare for the killers of journalists, and especially the masterminds, to be brought to justice.
Kuciak, whose work for the online news site Aktuality.sk uncovered allegations of tax fraud and financial crime implicating prominent business and political leaders in Slovakia, and Kušnírová were killed in their home on February 21, 2018. The double murder sparked the largest protests in Slovakia since the Velvet Revolution.
“Filing the indictment against Marian Kočner, Alena Zsuzsová, Tomáš Szabi, Miroslav Marček and Zoltán Andruskó is a logical continuation of a case that still hurts us all”, Peter Bárdy, the editor of Aktuality.sk and an IPI member, said. “The Public Prosecutor’s Office and the Court are in charge. The police investigation team of Peter Juhas did a good job. He has my absolute confidence and gratitude. Justice must prevail, although we all know that our loved ones will never return it to us.”
IPI has closely monitored progress in the murder investigation, visiting Bratislava more than a dozen times over the past year to press authorities for justice. Last October, IPI Executive Board Chair Markus Spillmann led an IPI delegation to meet with then-Slovak President Andrej Kiska. On International Day to End Impunity, November 2, IPI’s 24-member global Executive Board carried out a solidarity visit to the memorial for Kuciak and Kušnírová in Bratislava. In February, IPI and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) met with the Special Prosecutor’s Office and the Slovak interior ministry to push for progress at the one-year anniversary of the murder.