Media freedom community condemns murders of journalist and partner

By Jane Whyatt

The fatal shooting of an investigative reporter and his fiancée at their home in Slovakia has shocked and outraged media freedom campaigners.

Media freedom community condemns murder of journalist and partner 27 year old investigative journalist Ján Kuciak. (photo with permission of

Twenty-seven-year old Ján Kuciak was shot in the chest and his partner in the head. Their bodies were found at the apartment they shared in the town of Velka Maca, where they had recently moved in together.

Ján Kuciak had been working to uncover evidence of tax fraud in big businesses. He worked for the news portal, belonging to the Ringier Axel Springer media group. The editor Peter Habara has issued a statement making it clear that they will not be intimidated:

We are shocked and terrified by news that Ján Kuciak and his fiancée were probably victims of a vicious execution. Even though, the full picture is not yet clear, there is a reason to assume that this crime is related to current investigative work of our colleague. Ján Kuciak worked in Ringier Axel Springer Slovakia for 3 years. We grieve with his family, friends and colleagues. We will do everything in our power to support investigation and identification of the culprits. 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.

Other editors have expressed their solidarity in an open letter initiated by Beata Balogova, the editor-in-chief of and a member of the Board of ECPMF partner IPI (International Press Institute)

Reporter "had been threatened"

SME has also noted that Ján Kuciak had earlier reported to the police that he had been threatened by a business leader he was investigating, Marian Kocner. But they had not acted on the information.

ECPMF Managing Director Lutz Kinkel said: “If it is connected to his investigative work, this is not just a tragedy for the reporter and his partner but an attack on press and media freedom. We urge the authorities to launch a swift and thorough investigation and to step up protection for Slovakia’s journalists.“

The Centre’s legal advisor Flutura Kusari added: "It’s unacceptable. Legally speaking, I am very interested to know if he was previously threatened and if the police knew. If yes, the police had a legal obligation to protect him.“

Mogens Blicher Bjeeregård, ECPMF Board Member and the President of the European Federation of Journalists commented that this latest murder comes soon after the assassination in October 2017 of investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia in Malta, a crime which remains unsolved. "I am deeply stunned by this sad news coming from an EU country, which happens only a few months after Daphne Caruana Galizia's killing. If the link to his death due to his investigative work is proven, this would be a very worrying signal for journalism in the European Union.“

European Parliament "will not rest" 

It is a signal that has already alerted European Parliament President Antonio Tajani, who has urged the Slovakian authorities to consider bringing in international investigators. He tweeted: “As with Daphne Caruana Galizia, the European Parliament will not rest until justice is done.“

In Slovakia, the Prime Minister Robert Fico has announced a reward of one million euros for information leading to the killer or killers.

The news portal is owned by the Swiss-German Ringier Axel Springer media group. In an official statement, the group expressed its outrage:

"We grieve with the family, friends and colleagues"

"We are horrified and stunned by the news that Ján Kuciak and his partner have apparently been the victims of a horrible attack. Even if the background is still not fully explained, the suspicion is that the crime is connected with our colleague’s ongoing research. Ján Kuciak had been an editor at the newsportal which belongs to Ringier Axel Springer Slovakia since 2015.

"We grieve with the family, the friends and the colleagues. We will do all we can to support the authorities to find the perpetrator. Such an attack may be an attempt to hold back an independent publisher like Ringier Axel Springer Slovakia from uncovering wrongdoing. We will take this as an opportunity to carry out our mission with even greater resolve and conscientiousness."