Slovak civil society is reacting to the murder of the investigative journalist Ján Kuciak and his girlfriend. They were found dead in their home on 26 February. Authorities link the murder to his work on tax fraud and Slovak crony capitalism for the Aktuality.sk website. He had already received threats in previous months and was currently working on the links between organised crime and public figures in the country.
According to the Slovak Spectator, this is the first journalist’s murder in modern Slovak history. Nevertheless, Reporters without borders had already tracked a deterioration of freedom of the press in the country in the last year compared to 2016 and reported an increase of verbal attacks against journalist and the media by the leading party.
Slovak civil society is organising public reactions to condemn the murder and the attack on investigative journalism using social media.
One of the group states
<<His work had an impact on us all, thanks to him we learned about what “our people” did. We are grateful to him, but he paid for this with his life. It is something shattering. This murder sends a warning signal that those who speak out against the iniquities and the waste of our public money are likely to be silent. But this is a country of people – us, most of whom live their lives honestly – not thieves and murderers. Let us, please light a candle behind this brave young man and his fiancée. And let’s show their killer and those who want to make this country their empire that we outnumber them. And we are not blind.>>
Here are some initiatives (to be updated):
- Across Slovakia: Between 26 and 28 February, people will be lighting candles and bringing flowers in front of the editorial office of Aktuality.sk and several other cities around the country, including Michalovce and Poprad.
- In Prague: on 26 February, candles were also lightened in square Václavské Náměstí to show that <<these crimes have no space in Czech nor Slovak societies>>. From 26 February to 13 March, a black ribbon will be tied in front of the Slovak Embassy symbolising the Embassy condemn of <<the inaction of the state authorities in the investigation of crimes related to political power and the increasing interconnection of the mafia and the public authorities>>.
- In Brussels: on Thursday 1 March from 12.30 to 13.30 the European Federation of Journalists is organising a silent vigil outside the Press Center at the Residence Palace (Rue de la Loi 155, Brussels).
- Demonstration We do not want back 90s! across Slovakia: on Friday 2 March people are gathering in Bratislava (Hviezdoslavo
vo námestie, 811 02), Púchov (Nábrežie slobody 552/1, 02001), Trenčín, Pezinok, Prešov, Košice, Banská Bystrica, Martin calling for justice to be served and to carry out investigations on the two businessmen Ladislav Bašternák and Marian Kočner, protagonists of Kuciak’s search. He had filed a complaint against threatens received by Kočner. Other European cities will join the demonstration: Prague, Brno.
- In London: on Friday 2 March, people will gather lighting candles in front of the Slovak embassy (25 Kensington Palace Gardens, W8 4QY).
- All across Europe, demonstration Let’s build a decent Slovakia: on Friday 9, people are gathering across Europe to put pressure on the government and the police to carry out the investigations on the murder and to protect Slovak democracy from corruption. The initiative welcomes the international support. An extensive list of the events can be found here. The Facebook page of the event states: <<Do not mistake our decency and polite tone for a lack of determination or perseverance. We are determined and will persevere>>. To support the march with a donation: SK8709000000005142112967. The account is maintained in Slovenská sporiteľňa, a.s. the account name is “Za slušné Slovensko”.
A vocal reaction is also arriving from the international community. Adès-Mével, the head of RSF’s EU-Balkans desk commented <<An investigative reporter has yet again been murdered in a European Union country. We call for an investigation to establish the exact circumstances of Ján Kuciak’s death, and we demand that the authorities shed all possible light on this case, especially as he and those close to him had been threatened in recent months.>>
Ján Kuciak is the second investigative journalist killed in the European Union in the last year. As harassment, threats, and even murders are increasing at worrying speed it is crucial for civil society to speak out against these attacks to democracy and civic space, and for governing bodies to take measure to prevent freedom of expression in the EU from eroding further.