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30.10.2018

Slovakia: where do the Ján Kuciak murder investigations stand?

By ECPMF

Almost nine months after the murders of investigative journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancee, there’s a new link to Hungary, there are charges against four people, and ECPMF’s fact-finder is back in Bratislava again.

Slovakia: where do the Jan Kuciak murder investigations stand? A memorial to the murdered journalist and his fiancee. (photo: ECPMF)

Four people are on trial in Slovakia charged in connection with the deaths: Zoltan A., said in court to be a go-between or middle-man, Alena Z., who is accused of ordering and paying for the contract killing, Tamàš Sz., a former policeman charged with being the shooter, and Miroslav M., who allegedly acted as the getaway driver.

The court has heard that the price paid for the killings was 50,000 euros plus the cancellation of a 20,000 euros debt. New findings revealed by the Hungarian news magazine hvu.hu now claim that the murder weapon led to police searches inBudapest, Kecskemét and Zebegény, Hungary. The hvu.hu reporter writes that the news portal has obtained a police document that indicates Tamàš Sz., who is also Hungarian in origin, paid 3,000 euros for the pistol.

It was a double killing that outraged the media freedom community and brought thousands of ordinary Slovakians out onto the streets in mass protests that went on for days. Prime Minister Robert Fico and Interior Minister Robert Kalinak resigned. They have been replaced by Peter Pellegrini and Thomas Drucker respectively. Slovak police chief Tibor Gaspar also resigned and Milan Lucansky is now in charge of the investigations. They are continuing in co-operation with the Hungarian police.

ECPMF hearing confidential evidence

ECPMF's Legal Advisor Flutura Kusari has travelled to Slovakia to further investigate the murder inquiry and already met with Ministers and journalists in this visit following her fact-finding mission in March.

"People I spoke with have trust in the prosecution service and courts but not so much in the police. The new management of the police, established after Kalinak resigned seems to have taken the case of Ján much more seriously," she says.

"I am worried that the attention of authorities is mainly on the individual culpability of the murderers and not at all on the state’s responsibility for failing to protect Ján Kuciak. He had reported threats and states have positive obligations to protect journalists - especially after they report threats."

Threats to other journalists 

Meanwhile Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has appealed to the Slovakian police to act on all reports of journalists being harassed or threatened.

RSF’s Pauline Adès-Mével, head of the EU and Balkans desk of  the media freedom organisation, says that Kuciak had reported to the police that he was receiving threats from a business owner, Marian Kočner. RSF quotes Kočner replying to the journalist’s inquiries saying, "Mr Kuciak, I will take an interest in your loved ones, your mother, your father, your brothers and sisters and I shall publish abdolutely everything that I find. You will be the first. I will give you priority over Ms Monika Tódóva." (Ms Tódóva is an investigative journalist at the Dennik N news portal).

Kočner has been detained for allegations of financial crimes, he is also considered a murder suspect.

RSF believes that other investigative reporters are also at risk in Slovakia and calls on the authorities to defend the safety of journalists against “predators like Kočner“, warning: “Slovakia cannot tolerate another tragedy“.

Ms Kusari can be contacted confidentially, using encrypted communications. Please email press@ecpmf.eufor further details.





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