Slovak Prime Minister refutes claims he has mafia ties by posing next to a €1 million cash reward, following murder of investigative journalist and fiancée
Le Premier ministre slovaque Robert Fico a promis – billets de banque à l'appui – une prime d'un million d'euro pour toute information susceptible d'aider à trouver les responsables de l'assassinat du journaliste Jan Kuciak #AFP pic.twitter.com/b7yIJu7az3
— Agence France-Presse (@afpfr) 28 februari 2018
Yes, goddamnit, we might have stolen this headline a bit because we’re not that funny ourselves. Fuck you.
Reuters on 28 February published the news of the double murder of a Slovak investigative journalist and his fiancée. The bodies of Jan Kuciak and Martina Kusnirova were found on Sunday evening in their house, East of Bratislava, Slovakia’s capital. His employer has put his last, unfinished, article online by way of memorial.
Kuciak reported on suspected crimes by businessmen, and their possible connections with politicians. He specialised in exposing fraud and cronyism. And there is enough to go round: Slovakia is the single most corrupt country in the European Union. On the continent, it’s on a par with non-member state Ukraine, and only bested by non-member state Moldavia.
The police work from the understanding that the murders are connected to his work. Chief of Police Tibor Gaspar, told journalists:
“it seems that the most likely version is a motive connected to the investigative work of the journalist.“
The investigation into the murders was aggressively pursued, with authorities questioning 20 people since Monday, as well as detaining several Italian businessmen, whom Kuciak named as having mafia connections. Gaspar also indicated Slovak police has contacted the Czech Republic and Italy in connection with the investigation, while Europol has offered specialist assistance. The police are also investigating the ‘Ndrangheta’ (Sicilian mafia) and other Italian citizens mentioned in Kuciak’s report.
In response to the double murder, the Slovak minister of culture, Marek Madaric, long-time senior member of Prime Minister Robert Fico’s Smer party, resigned on Wednesday. As he said during a televised news conference in Bratislava, capital of Slovakia:
“Plainly said, I cannot as culture minister put up with a journalist being murdered during my tenure.“
There were more resignations. One was Viliam Jasan, national security council secretary, the other Maria Troskova, a close Fico aide. Both are alleged to have had ties to Antonino Vadala, an Italian businessman, before they entered government. Both were mentioned in Kuciak’s last report, although he did not suggest foul play. Nevertheless, both the Minister of Justice Lucia Zitnanska and Opposition Leaders had called for their dismissal.
The murders have raised concerns about corruption as well as freedom of the press in Slovakia. On Wednesday, a protest in Bratislava drew around 1000 people, while more are planned in Slovakia as well as abroad. Fellow journalists and media chiefs have vowed to combat attempts to silence journalists, and to continue their investigative work. Editors-in-chief of major Slovak newspapers and news broadcasters have issued a joint statement:
“The murder of a journalist is a serious sign that the crime is turning against one of the most important pillars of freedom: the freedom of speech and the right of the public to control the powerful and those violating the law.“