Slovak President pays tribute to Daphne Caruana Galizia upon arrival in Malta

‘It is unacceptable to target them [investigative journalists] with attacks that have no substantive or rational basis, and it is doubly unacceptable to do so to cover your own mistakes and weaknesses’


Slovak President Zuzana Čaputová’s first item of business upon her arrival in Malta on Wednesday evening for the next day’s Arraiolos Group meeting was not a courtesy call on a politician or dignitary but, rather, a tribute to assassinated Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Čaputová laid a bouquet of flowers at a monument to Caruana Galizia in her hometown of Sliema, where she stressed, “The work of journalists and media freedom is irreplaceable for the functioning of democracy.

“Even if it is sometimes difficult for us politicians to accept their outputs, the importance of their work goes beyond our interests or comfort.”

The importance of the Slovak president’s first stop in Malta should not be underestimated and there is, after all, a common thread linking Malta and Slovakia.

As Čaputová stated on her social media, “A Maltese journalist was murdered, similarly to Slovak journalist Ján Kuciak, for her investigative work.

“The work of journalists and media freedom is irreplaceable for the functioning of democracy. Journalists cannot become a target because of their work. For democracy to thrive, journalism is essential.”

In what can be construed as a not-so-veiled message to her fellow politicians and presidents gathered in Malta for the event, Čaputová’ added, “It is unacceptable to target them [investigative journalists] with attacks that have no substantive or rational basis.

“And it is doubly unacceptable to do so to cover your own mistakes and weaknesses.”

Čaputová was in Malta for a meeting of the Arraiolos Group comprising the presidents from 14 EU member states. It is the first time that Slovakia is participating.

But while there is a common thread in that both countries witnessed the assassination of an investigative journalist – Caruana Galizia on 16 October 2017, and Kuciak and his fiancé on 21 February 2018 – just four months apart.

Ján Kuciak and his fiancée, archaeologist Martina Kušnírová, were brutally murdered in their home. Kuciak was a journalist working for the online news site

Like Caruana Galizia, Kuciak uncovered tax fraud and financial crime allegedly implicating leading business and political figures in Slovakia.

The double murder sparked the largest protests in Slovakia since the Velvet Revolution and led to the resignations of Prime Minister Róbert Fico two weeks after the slayings, Interior Minister Robert Kaliňák, Culture Minister Marek Maďarič, and Chief of Police Tibor Gašpar.

Similarly, the fallout in Malta sparked the biggest demonstrations of the kind the country has seen, at least in recent memory, which, similarly, led to the disgrace and resignation of former prime minister Joseph Muscat and his former chief of staff, albeit some two years after Caruana Galizia’s assassination during which time Muscat desperately clung to power and refused to read the writing on the wall.

Now four years after Kuciak’s murder, the trial of the alleged masterminds is still ongoing, and Caruana Galizia’s trial by jury is yet to begin. The fight for justice in both cases remains wide open.

Slovak prosecutors allege businessman Marian Kočner, whose daughter was once married to Maltese lawyer Christian Ellul, ordered Kuciak’s killing after his reportage on Kočner’s political and financial dealings. Kočner and an accomplice Martina Zsusová were acquitted by a criminal court in 2020.

Last year, however, the Slovak Supreme Court overturned the acquittal and ordered a retrial, which began on 28 February with judges expected to take into account evidence that had been excluded from earlier proceedings.

Scott Griffen, the Deputy Director of the IPI, which has closely monitored the trial, said at the time, “We will not forget them, and, together with the courageous media community in Slovakia, we will not stop fighting for justice. This case remains open until every single person who played a role in these murders is behind bars.”

After Kuciak’s death, several Slovak politicians continued to verbally attack journalists, according to the IPI. These included, most infamously, attacks from then-Prime Minister Fico, who made headlines for calling journalists “dirty, anti-Slovak prostitutes” while he was still in office.

Fico referred to journalists at leading Slovak independent media outlets Denník N, Sme, and Aktuality as an “organised crime group”, and suggested the authorities should investigate how such journalists damage Slovakia’s statehood and to what extent they attack the state bodies of the Slovak Republic”.

The retrial of the Kuciak case began in February after the Slovak Supreme Court annulled the first  September 2020 decision to acquit businessman Marian Kočner and his alleged accomplice Alena Zsuzsová of the murders of Kuciak, an investigative reporter, and his fiancée Martina Kušnírová.

Both defendants are currently serving prison sentences following their convictions for other crimes.  Prosecutors allege that Kočner and Zsuzsová were the masterminds behind the murders, as well as a plan to murder state prosecutors.

In July, a Slovak Specialised Criminal Court began hearing more witnesses in the Kuciak murder case and in a conjoined trial on charges over an alleged plan to murder several prosecutors.

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saviour mamo
saviour mamo
7 months ago

The Slovak President should know that we had two presidents, so far, since the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia and none of them deemed fit to pay tribute to her. She should know that both of them were prominent cabinet members of Joseph Muscat government and the two of them protected him and his scandals.

Paul Bonello
Paul Bonello
7 months ago

The message of the Slovak President could not be louder in its significance. It is addressed in no uncertain terms to the Maltese State, controlled in all the relevant years of Daphne Caruana Galizia’s travails by a Labour Government, which government the Slovak President is effectively considering as the culprit of it. She will have been aware of the Maltese Government’s attempts – albeit failed ones – to diminish the significance of this political murder, possibly obliterate it from history as if it never happened and it is business as usual. Yet the Slovak President acts in a manner which she knows the Maltese Government will have hated her for this symbolic act.

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