Murder of Investigative Journalist Ján Kuciak Shakes Slovak Society

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘GLOBAL VOICES’)

 

Murder of Investigative Journalist Ján Kuciak Shakes Slovak Society

Killed Slovak journalist Ján Kuciak. Photo by Aktuality.sk, used with permission.

On February 25, Slovak journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiance Martina Kušnírová were found shot dead in their home about 65 km east of the capital Bratislava. The murders caused widespread shock and protests throughout the country.

Kuciak, 27, had worked for the news site Aktuality.sk. More than a week after the murder, there has been no headway in the official investigation.

According to BBC, between 10,000 and 20,000 people took to the streets across Slovakia on Friday in protest vigils in Kuciak’s memory, with some calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Robert Fico, the leader of the political party Direction – Social Democracy (SMER-SD).

Thousands of people are marching in Bratislava. This is huge reaction on murder of Slovak investigative journalist and his fiancée Martina Kušnírová. It’s probably biggest demonstration since independence of Slovakia.
(Photo credits: Tomáš Benedikovič, @dennikN)

Police and people close to Kuciak suspect his death was related to his work. His most recent investigation, which had yet to be published, looked at connections between Slovak government politicians and Italian mafia interests in eastern Slovakia, aimed at defrauding European Union (EU) subsidies for agriculture.

Several days after the murder, Slovak police arrested but then released Italian citizens Antonino Vadala, Bruno Vadala, and Pietro Catroppa who all are allegedly connected to the large-scale Italian organized crime group ‘Ndrangheta, which Kuciak was investigating prior to his death.

Various independent voices online since have pointed to connections between the ruling party and the Italian mafia.

Some comments have focused on Antonino Vadala, who once referred to Slovakia’s ruling SMER party as “our party”. Shortly thereafter, multiple politicians released statements saying they had no connection to Vadala.

Blogger Jiří Ščobák observed while lead parliamentarian Andrej Danko had posted an image of a candle on his Facebook page, to honor Kuciak, he had in fact previously been friends with Vadala. Ščobák juxtaposed a screenshot of the recent post, alongside a screenshot showing that they had been Facebook friends.

Connections with the Italian mafia is a taboo topic for Slovak media. Kuciak continued investigating them after journalist Ivan Mego from Plus 7 Dní weekly got orders from his superiors to stop his inquires on this topic, and was sacked in February.

Ján Kuciak’s colleagues from Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) and his outlet, Aktuality.sk, defied this norm and decided to posthumously publish the last story he was working on.

A former topless model who was hired unexpectedly by Slovakia’s Prime Minister turned out to be the former business partner of a man with ties to the ‘Ndrangheta. /3

You can kill a journalist, but you will never kill the story. We are proud to publish Jan’s last, unfinished investigation. https://www.occrp.org/en/amurderedjournalistslastinvestigation/ 

A Murdered Journalist’s Last Investigation – OCCRP

The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) is a global network of investigative journalists.

occrp.org

Kuciak was not the kind of investigative journalist who worked with many secret sources. His style was rooted primarily in collecting and connecting information from public archives.

Last September, he filed a criminal complaint because of verbal threats from a known Slovak entrepreneur.

The tax office about which assassinated journalist Jan Kuciak was investigating is up in flames today. Below, evidence burning: https://twitter.com/karelpeka/status/968442142472462336 

Slovak left-wing populist Prime Minister Róbert Fico is known for his verbal attacks on journalists, calling them “hyenas”, “dirty anti-Slovak prostitutes” and even “toilet spiders”.

Nevertheless, just two days after Kuciak’s killing, he put up a reward of one million euros from the state budget for information about the murder.

How is it even possible for PM to take 1 million € from the state treasury in CASH and put it on the table during a press conference? What law allowed him to do this with taxpayers’ money?

Two people with close ties to Fico figured prominently in Kuciak’s stories — Mária Trošková, a former girlfriend of Antonino Vadala, and Viliam Jasaň, who served as the chief of crisis management and state security, and had ties with a Vadala’s company.

Trošková and Jasaň have voluntarily left their posts in the government, pending the conclusion of the investigation of the journalist’s murder. When asked to explain their departure, which they say is temporary, both cited pressure from the media, arguing that “their names are abused in political struggle against Fico”.

Blogger Milan Ftorek pointed to contradictions in the PM’s public behavior:

Has the Slovak Prime Minister gone mad? …during one press conference he managed to both play the part of a person who wants to expose Kuciak’s killers, but at the same time he defended those who were the subject of Kuciak’s investigations?

Newspapers, political opposition voices and many members of the general public reacted with outrage, organizing memorials, marches and protests in Slovakiaand abroad, honoring Kuciak and Kušnírová.

#AllForJan webpage set up by Aktuality.sk commemorating Jan Kuciak (27), and Martina Kušnírová (27)

Kuciak’s media outlet Aktuality.sk is using the hashtag #AllForJan, while many have simply been using a hashtag with the journalist’s name .

Slovakian Reporter And His Girlfriend Shot Dead In Their Home

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME NEWS)

 

 Prague—A Slovak investigative reporter and his girlfriend were shot dead in their home in an attack likely linked to his reporting on tax evasion, Slovakia’s top police official said Monday.

The bodies of 27-year-old Jan Kuciak and his partner were found on Sunday evening in their house in the town of Velka Maca, east of the capital, Bratislava, national police force president Tibor Gaspar said.

Police went to the house at the request of a worried family member.

Gaspar said the slayings “likely have something to do with his investigative activities.” He declined to elaborate.

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico said if that if that were the case, it would be “an unprecedented attack on freedom of the press and democracy in Slovakia.”

Fico announced his government was offering 1 million euros ($1.23 million) to anyone who helped the authorities find the people responsible.

Reporters Without Borders, a watchdog group based in Paris, noted that Kuciak was the second journalist killed in the European Union in five months.

Daphne Caruana Galizia, a reporter in Malta who investigated corruption, was killed in October by a bomb that destroyed her car. The crime drew attention to financial corruption on the island nation.

Three Maltese men believed to have triggered the powerful bomb that killed Caruana Galizia were ordered in December to stand trial for murder. Investigators think the men were working for someone, but no mastermind has been identified.

In Slovakia, Gaspar said the reporter was shot in the chest and his girlfriend was shot in the head. He said the killings were estimated to have taken place between Thursday and Sunday.

He added that Slovakia “has never faced such an unprecedented attack on a journalist.”

Kuciak was working for Aktuality.sk news website. He focused mainly on tax evasion.

“We are shocked and stunned by the news that Jan Kuciak and his partner were apparently victims of a cruel attack,” publisher Ringier Axel Springer Slovakia, to which Aktuality.sk belongs, said in a statement.

“We mourn with the family, the friends and the colleagues; we will do everything to support the investigating authorities to bring the perpetrator to justice.”

Kuciak latest story reported on a businessman suspected of selling flats in an apartment complex to his own companies. The reporter questioned the business reason for doing that, and speculated that it could be a method of avoiding taxes.

Last year, Kuciak alleged that the businessman, Marian Kocner, threatened him following publication of a previous story. The reporter said he filed a complaint with police and alleged they failed to act.

Gaspar said everyone who had been in touch with Kuciak will be questioned. Police plan to provide protection for an unspecified number of other reporters from Aktuality.sk, he said without elaborating.

Slovak President Andrej Kiska called Monday for a quick investigation of the crime.

“We have to find those who did it as soon as possible and ensure the safety of all journalists,” Kiska said in a statement.

Editors-in-chief of major Slovak media urged the government to take necessary steps to find the people responsible for the slayings and “to create conditions for the safe work of journalists.”

Reporters Without Borders also pressed for quick action.

“We call for an investigation in order to establish the exact circumstances of Jan 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,” Pauline Ades-Mevel, head of the group’s Europe and Balkans desk, said in a statement.

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