‘A strong democracy needs a strong press’: Tributes to Ján Kuciak mark four years since assassination

Political leaders, journalists and press freedom organisations on Monday paid tribute to Slovak journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kušnírováa assassinated four years ago today.

In a video message on Twitter, European Parliament President Roberta Metsola reiterated the EU’s commitment to fight for rights for journalists.

“The European Union will always stand for freedom of expression, for the rights of journalists and for media freedom. Safeguards must be put in place to make sure journalists can do their work. To make sure they can wake up every morning without fearing for their lives… a strong democracy needs a strong press. There can be no democracy without freedom of the press,” she said.


The Slovak journalist and his fiancée were shot and killed in their home in 2018. A retrial of the murder case will begin on 28 February, with judges expected to take into account evidence that was excluded from the first round of proceedings, after the Slovak Supreme Court overturned an acquittal decision last year.

In a statement, the International Press Institute (IPI) also renewed its call for justice. “This case remains open until every single person who played a role in these murders is behind bars. As the retrial begins, the Specialised Criminal Court now has a clear task: it must exhaustively consider all evidence and the full circumstances of this case,” the organisation said.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and Article19 also called for full justice for the journalist. “Slovak journalists are not safe until all those responsible are convicted,” RSF said.

Memorial in Slovakia unveiled

Meanwhile, a memorial to the couple was unveiled in Bratislava today. Kuciak’s father and Kušnírová’s mother spoke at the event while flowers were laid at the foot of the memorial. Matthew Caruana Galizia was also present at the unveiling.

Jana Kuciakova and Zlata Kušnírová lay flowers at a memorial to Ján Kuciak and Martina Kušnírová, unveiled in Bratislava today Photo: The Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation

Malta and Slovakia – same problem, different outcomes

The assassination of Kuciak in Slovakia occurred mere months after that of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, raising urgent questions about the state of press freedom within the countries – both member states of the European Union.

In an interview with The Shift, RSF Head for the EU and the Balkans, Pavol Szalai had pointed out that in both countries a journalist was killed because of their investigation on corruption, with the alleged masterminds both linked to the ruling party in their respective countries.

“Before the killing of these journalists, both countries also had warning signals about the deteriorating environment for journalism in general as well as the individual security of both journalists,” Szalai added.

He had also noted that the backlash of Kuciak’s murder had led to investigative journalism being “at the centre” of the public debate in Slovakia, while a similar reaction in Malta did not occur. He had also said that although Kuciak was killed months after Caruana Galizia, Slovakia is further down the road to justice.

“This is where we can see how difficult the case of Daphne in Malta is, in comparison. You can see that justice in Malta is too slow and insufficient, especially by EU standards,” he had said, adding that investigative journalists in Malta are “still marginalised”.

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