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20.08.2018

Police chief: Kuciak murder will be solved

By Jane Whyatt and Lucie Sykorovà

Six months to the day since reporter Jàn Kuciak and his fiancée were murdered in Slovakia, many questions remain unanswered.

MEPs urge action to protect journalists across the EU A resolution was approved by the European Parliament to better protect journalists. Slovakia must ensure an international investigation into the murder of Ján Kuciak.

No-one has been charged in connection with the deaths. Jan Kuciak was shot twice in the chest at close range and his fiancee Martina Kusnirova died from a single bullet wound in the head. The police chief in charge of the investigation, Milan Lučansky, has apologised for his public silence and given a private briefing to the country’s president Andrej Kiska. Reporting the meeting, Jan Kuciak’s former employer Aktuality.sk stated that Lučansky "was aware that the silence surrounding the murder inquiry is traumatising for some people“. But he explained that he would not break the silence for operational reasons,. He said that if he publicly mentioned a line of inquiry, the suspects concerned would hear about it and they would be able to hide. 

Posthumous prizes for Jàn

Since the fatal shootings at his home on February 21 2018, Jan Kuciak has been posthumously honoured with several prizes. In the European Parliament, the European United Left/Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL) awarded him the Prize for Journalists, Whistleblowers and Defenders of the Right to Information. And at the Axel Springer Awards in Berlin, Germany, this was the citation:

Prize-winners are mostly happy about receiving their prize. They hold it up proudly in the flurry of camera flashes and enjoy the applause of those present. Ján Kuciak cannot do any of that. The 27-year-old investigative journalist from Slovak news portal aktuality.sk was awarded a special prize at the 2018 awards ceremony of the Axel Springer Prize for Young Journalists. But Ján Kuciak is dead

In Slovakia he also was honoured with the Prize of Journalistic Award 2017 and of the Fund of Investigative Journalism, which is given by Open Society fund. He also got the Transparency Award from the American embassy in Slovak. This prize will in future carry his name (it will be Jan Kuciak´s Prize for Transparency). Jan Kuciak and Martina Kušnírová also were honoured by the Slovak city of Zilina, where they got the honest citizenship of the city. 

An unwelcome award for independent journalism

However another posthumous award, the Czech Republic‘s Award for Independent Journalism was not welcomed by Jàn Kuciak’s family, friends and supporters. Although the Director- General of the Czech broadcaster, Rene Zavoral, did not support his own investigative reporter Janek Kroupa when he was accused of ‘ biased reporting‘ about the Prime Minister Andrej Babis’s business dealings, he supported the Award for Independent Journalists (Krameriova cena) by being a member of jury. This award has been granted every year (since 2016) by the Association of Independent Media (Asociace nezávislých médií). This Association was founded in March 2015 by the editors of websites that spread disinformation.The chairman is Stanislav Novotný, the former police president. He´s well known for his statements like: „Electing Donald Trump means attempt to return to normality for America and the whole world“, "I'm for Czexit“, etc. Another member of the jury is Jaroslav Plesl, the editor-in-chief of the daily newspaper Mfdnes which is owned by Prime Minister Andrej Babiš. 

The Association of independent media was founded also by Jan Koral and Ondrej Geršl.Jan Koral founded the website: http://www.nwoo.org/ Ondřej Geršl founded the website: https://ac24.cz/ Both these websites are on lists of disinformation media, which were compiled by the website Neovlivni.cz, and of the Ministry of the Interior.

In 2018 the jury also awarded postmortem the murdered Slovak journalist Jan Kuciak. The  Kuciak family refused to accept the award, and it was also criticised  by Peter Bàrdy the editor in chief of the news website Aktuality.sk, where Jan Kuciak used to work.

The Slovak ambassador in Prague Peter Weiss accepted the award on behalf of Kuciak.

Slovak journalists from the Dennik N news website also commented this event in the article with the headline "Slovak ambassador assisted in the besmirching of Jan Kuciak´s name”. 

‘All for Jan‘ - journalists in Slovak public service media protest

Support for Jan Kuciak and his investigative work has added to concerns about the situation in the Slovak public service media RTVS (TV and broadcast). In April 2018 around 200 journalists employed in RTVS signed an open letter, where they criticised conditions in the media. One of their concerns was that they had been banned from wearing badges with the 'All for Jan‘ logo, which they had adopted to show solidarity with the murdered reporter and his fiancee. And they voiced concerns about the editorial priorities of their new managers:

The new board wilfully restricts, bullies and gets rid of long-serving journalists, who in recent years fundamentally contributed to the renewal of public trust in public service media. Public service media are being controlled by people, whose career is connected more to political management then journalism, and broadcasting is affected by censorship

After that, four freelance reporters who signed the letter did not get their contracts renewed. Twelve staff journalists handed in their notice and said they would quit their jobs in protest. 

Lucie Sykorova is a freelance journalist in the Czech REpublic and chairs the Supervisory Board of the ECPMF.

 

 


Creative Commons LicenseThis article is licensed under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0.
Source information: This article was originally published by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom – https://www.ecpmf.eu/news/threats/police-chief-kuciak-murder-will-be-solved