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01.10.2018

Slovakia: 70.000 euros for a journalist murder

By Emil Weber

On Sunday, 30 September 2018, the Special Justice Court in Banska Bystrica, Slovakia, ordered the detention of four suspects in the murder case of Slovak investigative journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kušnírová. Three men and a woman were arrested between Thursday and Friday on the charges of executing, assisting or ordering the assassination in February 2018.

Jan Kuciak Vigil for Ján Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kušnírová (photo: ECPMF)

According to aktuality.sk, the media outlet where late Kuciak was working, the four suspects involve a former Slovak-Italian translator who was working for controversial businessmen, a former police investigator, a former member of the army, and a local businessman. Peter Brady, editor-in-chief of aktuality.sk, told the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) that he believes the police to have a lot of evidence on the murder, “however, we still don't know the name of the mastermind behind it”, he said.

Reuters quotes the Slovak general prosecutor saying "there will probably be more charges". It was also said that the killer, allegedly a former police man, was paid 70,000 euros.

On Friday September 28, a civic demonstration organised by the movement ‘For a decent Slovakia’ prior to the arrests, was held in front of the Slovak Parliament protesting against the little progress in the investigation. The movement was created following the journalist’s murder.

ECPMF: Investigation to focus also on why Slovakia failed to protect the journalist

The arrests happened seven months after the assassination of Kuciak and Kušnírová who were found shot dead on 25 February, 2018 in the town of Vel’ka Mača. Kuciak was investigating the business practices of an entrepreneur with alleged ties to the mafia and top aides of government leaders. His unfinished article was published posthumously by many local and international media. Kuciak had received severe threats which he reported to the police authorities

In the days following the murder, public mass protests arose leading to the resignation of Prime Minister Robert Fico and Interior Minister Robert Kalinak in March. However, journalists, media organisations and other observers have recently raised criticism concerning the lack of investigation conclusions, its independence and changes in the police leadership structure.

Aktuality.sk’s editor, Peter Brady says, that international authorities’ “interest and ‘pressure’ was and still is important - not only when it comes to the investigation”. “Before we were of just marginal interest to the EU and others, now we are more controlled”, Brady told the ECPMF. “This is the way forward to fight corruption”.

Flutura Kusari, ECPMF’s legal advisor, says her organisation welcomes the arrests of the four suspects and that she expects a swift progress in finding the masterminds behind the murders. She stresses, that the investigation should also focus on why Slovak authorities failed to protect Kuciak and Kušnírová. “When a person reports severe threats to the police - as Kuciak did – the national authorities have the legal obligation under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights to protect that person. Slovakia failed to protect him and those responsible should be brought to justice”.

Next press freedom mission to Slovakia in the planning 

On Monday, 1 October 2018, the Council of Europe (CoE) published the latest reply by the Permanent Representative of the Slovak Republic to the Council of Europe on the Kuciak case alert platform.

There it says, that the arrests and charges were “the result of an intensive effort of Slovak law enforcement authorities together with international partners of the Slovak Republic”. He would like “to seize this opportunity and reiterate a strong commitment of the Slovak Republic to provide further information concerning a development of the investigation”, the representative says.

End of October, ECPMF’s legal advisor Flutura Kusari will again travel to Slovakia, as she did in the wake of the Kuciak murder, to observe the developments of the investigation and the state of press freedom in Slovakia. For any requests in the matter please contact the ECPMF press department.





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