Investgative journalist murdered in Slovakia

Ringier Axel Springer Slovakia, Ringier Axel Springer Media AG, Ringier AG and Axel Springer SE issued a press release addressing the death of a journalist.

Source: B92, EFJ/IFJ
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(Thinkstock)
(Thinkstock)

"We are shocked and stunned about the message, that Jan Kuciak and his companion obviously have been the victim of a cruel assassination," the company said, adding:

"Although the background is not totally clarified there is justified suspicion that the crimes are connected with a current research of our colleague. Jan Kuciak has been working for three years for the newsportal aktuality.sk, belonging to Ringier Axel Springer Slovakia."

"We grieve with their families, friends and colleagues and we will do everything we can to support the governmental authorities in order to identify the perpetrators. In case the crime was meant as an attempt to deter an independent publisher like Ringier Axel Springer Slovakia from uncovering any infringements, we will use this as an opportunity to take our journalistic responsibility even more conscientious and consistent," the press release concluded.

Media reports said earlier that the 27-year-old Slovak investigative reporter - who focused mainly on tax invasion - had been shot dead in his apartment, along with his girlfriend.

Police official Tibor Gaspar said the killings “likely have something to do with Kuciak's investigative activities "but "declined to elaborate," AP reported.

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico said if that if that were the case, it would be “an unprecedented attack on freedom of the press and democracy in Slovakia" and added his government was offering one million euros to anyone who helped the authorities find those behind the killings.

The European and International Federation of Journalists (EFJ/IFJ) reacted on Monday to say they were "deeply shocked to learn of Kuciak's death," noting that his reporting "focused mainly on allegations of tax evasion and fraud involving high-ranking officials and tycoons."

The organization cited media reports in its press release to say that "the last story he wrote involved businessman Marian Kocner, known for his real estate deals" and for "insulting and threatening journalists."

He allegedly threatened to expose "any dirt" he could find on Kuciak or his family, according to an article by Kuciak's editor-in-chief Peter Bardy published in September 2017, EFJ/IFJ said.

The Journalists' trade union in Slovakia, Slovensky Syndikat Novinarov (SSN),an EFJ-IFJ affiliate, said: "We take this murder as an unprecedented act against investigative journalism and free media in Slovakia. We call on the authorities to enforce the law and investigate the murder of these two persons. All attacks against journalists in our country must stop."

"I am deeply stunned by this sad news coming from an EU country, which happens only a few months after Daphne Caruana Galizia's killing," said EFJ President Mogens Blicher Bjerregard, "If the link to his death due to his investigative work is proven, this would be a very worrying signal for journalism in the European Union. We urge the authorities to resolve the case and make sure that the mastermind is brought to justice.Top leaders in Slovakia should firmly stand up for press freedom and put an end to impunity. My deepest thoughts and sympathies are with the relatives of the victims."

IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger said: "The murder of young journalist Jan Kuciak for motives that seem to be work related is a deep blow to press freedom. We urge the police authorities to bring the perpetrators of Kuciak’s killing to justice."

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