As Slovakia marks the fifth anniversary of the assassination of journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kušnírová, a new mechanism for protecting journalists has been launched to protect the country’s media workers.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has announced its financial support and expert assistance for the project, which will monitor and prevent attacks on Slovak journalists and assist victims.
The Slovak journalist and his fiancée were shot dead in their home in 2018, just four months after the assassination of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, raising urgent questions about the state of press freedom in the two countries – both members of the European Union.
The project is called Safe.Journalism.sk (Bezpecna.Zurnalistika.sk) and was launched by the Investigative Centre of Ján Kuciak (ICJK), an investigative media and NGO founded in 2018.
RSF will be supporting the project with funding and expertise as one of the two main partners. The other leading partner is the Embassy of the Netherlands in Bratislava. Inspired by the Dutch protection mechanism, PersVeilig, the Slovak project is the first of its kind in the country.
⚡️#Slovaquie : à l’occasion du 5e anniversaire de l’assassinat du journaliste Jan Kuciak et de sa fiancée, RSF demande que justice soit rendue et annonce apporter son soutien financier et son expertise à un projet inédit de protection des journalistes en🇸🇰.https://t.co/ncQze8gE8y pic.twitter.com/wjobuKZ6pH
— RSF (@RSF_inter) February 20, 2023
In its initial phase, Safe.Journalism.sk ran a survey in the Slovak journalistic community to identify the threats. As a next step, the project will design, in discussion with the Slovak authorities, specific measures to protect journalists.
The survey conducted between December 2022 and January 2023 found that more than two-thirds (66%) of the respondents experienced an incident (attack or threat) in the past 12 months.
The most common were verbal attacks online (40%) and verbal attacks in person (36%). Physical attacks and legal threats, such as gag orders, were experienced by 4% and 2% of journalists, respectively. Journalists described three-quarters (73%) of the incidents as hate speech against them. As a result of the incidents, 16% of journalists resorted to self-censorship.
To mark the fifth anniversary of Kuciak and his fiancee, a delegation of international media freedom organisations will conduct a joint mission to Bratislava between 20 and 21 February 2023.
🇸🇰#Slovakia: Today marks five years since the brutal murder of investigative journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kušnírová. IPI stands in solidarity with their families, friends & colleagues in the ongoing fight for full justice. #EndImpunity #AllForJan #AllForMartina pic.twitter.com/RyoTsQ0ZGp
— IPI – The Global Network for Independent Media (@globalfreemedia) February 21, 2023
The mission will be joined by the International Press Institute (IPI), the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF), Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Free Press Unlimited (FPU) and ARTICLE 19 Europe. The mission is part of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR)
The delegation will meet with editors and journalists of the major Slovak media, including the public broadcaster RTVS. In addition, the organisations will discuss their proposals for improving press freedom at meetings with government representatives, the opposition, the police presidency, the chief prosecutor’s office and other public officials.
In a video message on social media, European Parliament President Roberta Metsola marked the anniversary of Jan Kuciak’s killing by writing that “five years ago, Europe was outraged at the murder of Slovak journalist Ján Kuciak & his fiancée Martina Kušnírová. Our outrage is matched by our determination for justice, for media freedom, and to protect journalists. We remember them. We honour them. We fight for them”.
5 years ago, Europe was outraged at the murder of Slovak journalist Ján Kuciak & his fiancée Martina Kušnírová.
Our outrage is matched by determination for justice, for media freedom & to protect journalists.
We remember them. We honour them. We fight for them. #AllForJan 🇪🇺🇸🇰 pic.twitter.com/a1oF1iE6xL
— Roberta Metsola (@EP_President) February 21, 2023
European Commission Vice President Vera Jourova was also in Slovakia to mark the anniversary of the journalists’ assassination and discuss EU reforms, including European Media Freedom Act and anti-SLAPP Directive.
“Killing the messenger doesn’t mean that you kill the message”, Jourova wrote on social media, adding that she visited Slovakia to pursue Kuciak’s legacy “and all of those who sacrificed their life to unveil the truth.”
Maltese MEP David Casa also remembered the Slovak journalist writing, “Democracy needs journalists. Journalists need our active protection.”
The verdict in the ongoing retrial of the alleged mastermind Marian Kocner and his accomplice Alena Zsuzsova is set to be announced on April 24, according to the prosecutor Matus Harkabus.
The retrial at the Special Criminal Court started after the Supreme Court had quashed in June 2021 the acquittal of Marian Kočner and Alena Zsuzsova in the first trial.