International press freedom organisations demand ‘justice for Ján’

Leading international press freedom organisations representing thousands of journalists and human rights activists across Europe have called for justice and accountability from State authorities for the murder of Slovak journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kušnírová who were shot dead at their home a year ago.

“On behalf of the undersigned media freedom organisations, representing thousands of journalists and human rights activists across Europe, we urge the Slovak authorities to immediately start examining State responsibility in the failure to prevent the assassination of Ján Kuciak,” the organisations said in a statement.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF), European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), Association of European Journalists (AEJ), Article19, PEN International, Index on Censorship, European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF), Ossigeno per l’informazione, Osservatorio Balcani Caucaso Transeuropa (OBCT), and South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) welcomed the arrests of suspects who have now been charged in connection with the murders.

Yet they noted that a few months before he was killed, Kuciak reported threats he received to the police. He published a post on his Facebook timeline on 20 October 2017, only four days after Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was assassinated, describing the absence of police action after he had officially reported a threat by the businessman Marián Kočner – a businessman who had family ties in Malta and who set up companies in the country (now closed down).

“It’s 44 days since I filed a threat … and the case probably doesn’t even have a particular cop [named in the case]”, he said.

When journalists report threats against them, the State is obliged to protect their life under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights. “We are concerned that, to date, there has been no adequate investigation of possible State breaches in its protective obligation,” the press freedom organisations said, listing a number of questions:

  • Whether Slovakia knew, or ought to have known, of a present and immediate threat to his life
  • Which steps, if any, were taken to protect Kuciak from that threat
  • What will be done to protect Slovak journalists in the future?

The questions and demands are similar to what is being demanded by international press freedom organisations on the assassination of Caruana Galizia in their demand for an independent public inquiry.

“In an environment of intimidation, threats, political interference and impunity, investigative journalists have to fear for their lives to fulfill their work and report on corruption and other threats to democracy. The value of independent journalism and free media should not be put into question. Anti-media rhetoric from those in high office is unacceptable,” the organisations said.

They requested the Slovak authorities to carefully consider the resolution approved by the LIBE Committee of the European Parliament on Tuesdat that includes a call on the governments of Slovakia and Malta to ensure the safety of journalists.

It is imperative that all relevant State authorities take effective and consistent action to counter the lack of safety for journalists across Europe. “We seek justice for Kuciak’s killing. We will keep pressuring until the perpetrators are found and duly convicted according to European standards,” the organisations said.

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