Journalists harassed a year after Kuciak murder
Investigative reporter Ján Kuciak’s murder in February 2018 triggered an unprecedented political earthquake in Slovakia and sent shockwaves through the international community. In his last article, Kuciak had revealed that the Calabrian mafia had been using high-level contacts within the Slovak government to embezzle EU development funds. An ensuing wave of protests forced Prime Minister Robert Fico and several of his ministers to resign. In September 2018, the police arrested four persons for suspected involvement in carrying out Kuciak’s murder and, in March 2019, a businessman, Marian Kočner, was charged with ordering it.
Although no longer prime minister, Fico continues to head Smer-SD (the dominant party in the ruling coalition) and, like other Slovak politicians, he has recovered his nerve and often attacks the media. He is notorious for describing journalists as “filthy anti-Slovak prostitutes” and accusing them of trying to damage Slovakia’s EU presidency in November 2016, when they asked him about alleged procurement irregularities linked to the presidency. Kuciak’s murder has revived questions about the unexplained disappearances of two journalists, one in 2008 and the other in 2015, and has put the issue of the safety of journalists’ and their sources back on the agenda.
In recent years, Slovak media that were previously owned by leading international media companies have been acquired by local oligarchs whose main business interests lie outside journalism. The independence of RTVS, the public radio and TV broadcaster that had become a symbol of journalistic integrity in recent years, is now also threatened. Around 30 journalists left RTVS in 2018 as a result of a dispute with the management installed in 2017, which is linked to the SNS, one of the junior parties in the ruling coalition. Smer-SD and SNS are still trying to regulate the media and, in particular, to reinstate the automatic right of response to critical reporting that politicians had enjoyed until 2011. Defamation is still punishable by up to eight years in prison under a criminal code provision that politicians continue to use to harass journalists and media outlets.
27 in 2018
20.26 in 2018