Remembering Ján Kuciak on his 32nd birthday

Ján Kuciak would have been 32 years old today.

Instead, his life was cut short by a bullet in 2018 because he wrote about things other people — powerful people — wanted to hide. He was just 27 years old.

The assassination of Kuciak and his fiancé Martina Kušnírováa placed investigative journalism “at the centre” of public discourse in Slovakia, according to RSF Head for the EU and the Balkans, Pavol Szalai, who spoke to The Shift on the fourth anniversary of the killings.

The murders sparked street protests in Bratislava and led to the resignation of the country’s prime minister and his entire cabinet.

Marian Kocner, a well-known businessman with interests in real estate, investments, and the financial sector and a frequent subject of Kuciak’s reporting, is on trail for ordering and financing the killings.

Two trigger men, Miroslav Marcek and Zoltan Andrusko, pled guilty and were sentenced to 23 and 15 years respectively for carrying out the murders. And Marcek’s cousin, Tomas Szabo, pled not guilty but was convicted and sentenced to 25 years for his involvement at a separate trial.

But as the son of slain Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia pointed out, convicting those responsible for the murders isn’t enough to prevent other journalists from being killed for their work.

“Happy birthday, Jan,” Matthew Caruana Galizia said on Facebook earlier today. “We’re working to stop this happening again.”

A strong democracy needs a strong, free press. Democracy will remain under threat in Europe as long as journalists wake up each morning in fear for their lives.

                           
                               
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