A Slovakian Tragedy for Journalism
On 25 February, Investigative journalist Ján Kuciak was shot dead in his home in Veľká Mača, Slovakia, along with his girlfriend Martina Kušnírová. The tragedy has sparked outrage, grief and anxiety across the country, prompting calls for a proper investigation of the death.
Slovakia is not Russia: journalists generally enjoy a very high degree of freedom and safety. It feels, then, that such a tragedy comes from a different space, or a different time.
And yet the story follows a familiar logic in a Europe of rising right-radical sentiment. Kuciak often worked on financial frauds, scandals, tax evasion, shell companies, and misuse of eurofunds. He was also investigating notorious local bosses Ladislav Bašternák and Marián Kočner. Indeed, the list of ‘entrepreneurs’ that must have been annoyed by his investigations quite long. He investigated issues around PENTA, one of the biggest financial groups in the country, he looked into the Slovak elements of the Panama Papers, and into the distribution of the eurofunds potentially linked with Italian mafia Ndrangheta, in the east of the republic. Some have suggested that this work might be the real cause of death.
Some have attempted to politicize the issue for short-term gain. They point to petty politics of blame between the opposition and the ruling government.
But we must beyond such partisan infighting, which not only shifts blame too easily, but also instills a sense of fear among citizens who do not trust their representatives.
We must call instead for a serious and effective investigation, powered by the Slovak journalists that this killing attempted to silence: to join forces, with the backing of their editorial boards, publishing houses and from the Slovak police, to properly and thoroughly investigate what Kuciak was investigating. That would be a true homage to his death — and the way only way that we can move toward DiEM25’s vision of a democratic and progressive Slovakia.
Alena is a member of DiEM25 Slovakia.
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