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Press freedom groups demand answers from Slovak authorities over failure to stop killing of investigative journalist

Press freedom groups and journalist organisations have pushed Slovak authorities to look into state failures to stop the murder of investigative reporter Jan Kuciak on the anniversary of his death one year ago.

Ten groups, including Reporters without Borders, Index on Censorship and the European Federation of Journalists, signed an open letter demanding questions of Slovak authorities into Kuciak’s death.

They said he reported threats against him to police a few months before he was killed at his home in Velka Maca, Slovakia, alongside fianceé artina Kusnirova (both pictured) on 21 February 2018.

In a post on his Facebook timeline dated 20 October 2017, Kuciak said: “It’s 44 days since I filed a threat … and the case probably doesn’t even have a particular cop [named in the case].”

Kuciak was one of three journalists to be killed in a European Union country last year, and one of 80 whose lives were taken as a result of their journalism, according to figures from Reporters Without Borders.

Europol announced in October that it had charged four people in connection with the murder of Kuciak and his fiancee while releasing five others.

Local authorities said they suspected that Kuciak was killed in connection with his investigative work for Aktuality.sk, which covered tax fraud and real estate deals involving powerful businessmen.

In their joint letter, the groups said Slovakia had an obligation to protect Kuciak under Article Two (right to life) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

They said: “We are concerned that to date there has been no adequate investigation of possible state breaches in its protective obligation.

“We need answers to the following questions:

  1. Whether Slovakia knew, or ought to have known, of a present and immediate threat to his life
  2. Which steps, if any, have they taken to protect Kuciak from that threat
  3. And what will be done to protect Slovak journalists in the future.”

They also criticised a bill proposed by Slovakia’s ruling Smer party last month that would legally mandate a “right of reply” for politicians and public officials under the country’s Press Act.

Titles that fail to publish a reply could face damages up to nearly €5,000.

The organisations said: “If passed, this provision would contribute to an increasingly hostile environment for the free press by providing politicians who are the subject of critical news with the means to censor unwanted criticism.”

The full list of signatories to the open letter are:

  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom
  • Article19
  • Association of European Journalists
  • European Federation of Journalists
  • Index on Censorship
  • Osservatorio Balcani Caucaso Transeuropa
  • Ossigeno per l’informazione
  • PEN International
  • Reporters Without Borders
  • South East Europe Media Organisation.

Picture: Reporters Without Borders

Comments

1 thought on “Press freedom groups demand answers from Slovak authorities over failure to stop killing of investigative journalist”

  1. Whilst important to receive answers, we fail to see the same determination for murdered journalists reporting upon regimes such as Ukraine or Israel. There appears a Geo-political aspect that drives justice from some regimes as opposed to others. The recent murder of Jamal Khashoggi informs us of such political intrigue.

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