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Unfinished lives: A year since journalist Ján Kuciak was murdered

Jan Kuciak

Almost a year ago, journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancé Martina Kušnírová were murdered in their own home – shot at close range.

To date, four people have been charged with his murder, but it is believed that the masterminds behind the attack still remain at large, with no significant progress made towards bringing them to justice. There is a popular suspect – powerful businessman Marian Kocner – who is in jail under different, unrelated charges.

Kuciak was just 27 years old when he was murdered. The crime sent shock waves throughout Slovakia and Europe, as the second assassination of a journalist in a few months in the European Union after Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

In the days following his assassination, thousands of Slovaks took to the streets to pay tribute to him, and to call for justice. Candles were lit at the Slovak National Uprising Square in Bratislava as well as in front of the editorial offices of Aktuality.sk, where Kuciak had worked.

By the beginning of March, thousands protested against the attacks across, with demonstrations held in 24 towns in Slovakia, as well as 17 other cities around the world, to demand justice. As a result of allegations that the government was either complicit, or negligent in the deaths, the Prime Minister Robert Fico and his cabinet resigned.

In the months following his death, investigative journalism watchdogs and organisations such as the OCCRP, IRPI, and Invesitgave.cz started to publish new findings based on Kuciak’s reporting, revealing more about the criminal underworld in Slovakia and its links to politicians and law enforcement.

The President of the Slovak police force, Tibor Gaspar said his murder “likely had something to do with Ján’s investigative activities” and offered a €1 million reward for anyone with information that would lead to the arrest of the murderers. Not unlike Malta, when the government was still in the phase of talking about “leaving no stone unturned”.

At the time of his assassination, Kuciak was working on an investigation into links between Slovakia and the Italian organised crime syndicate,’Ndrangheta. Shortly after his death, Aktuality.sk published his last unfinished story that detailed the activities of Italians linked to organised crime, settling in Slovakia and embezzling European funds that were earmarked for the development of the region.

He also spoke of links between these individuals and high-ranking State officials including Viliam Jasan the Secretary of the State Security Council of Slovakia, and former nude model Maria Troskov who became Chief Advisor to the Prime Minister.

Tom Gibson, EU Representative and Advocacy Manager at the Committee to Protect Journalists today questioned how much longer until justice for Kuciak is delivered.

Then today, 363 days after his murder, the European Parliamentary Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice, and Home Affairs (LIBE) voted in favour of a resolution that condemned the lack of action and efficient investigation into his murder as well as that of Caruana Galizia.

The motion also called out Malta’s similar failure to bring the masterminds of Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder to justice, noting that the rule of law, democracy, and human rights are enshrined in EU treaties and states cannot continue to refuse to comply.

As the one-year anniversary of his brutal murder approaches, The Shift News expresses its solidarity with both his family and journalistic colleagues, as well as those fighting against corruption, organised crime, and impunity at the heart of Europe.

LIBE vote resolution

EP vote condemns Malta’s inaction on corruption, crime and protection of journalists

Ján Kuciak protest for his murder

International press freedom organisations demand ‘justice for Ján’