Journalist Lukasz Masiak, founder of news site NaszaMlawa.pl, was attacked and killed in Poland on 14 June 2015. Masiak, who had been subject to numerous threats believed to be connected to his work, died of traumatic brain injury after being assaulted, according to TVN24.
Launched in 2010, NaszaMlawa.pl covers Mlawa, a town of about 30,000 in the north central part of Poland. Masiak’s site reported on several controversial issues, including the dealings of local businessmen, drug use involving participants of the local mixed martial arts league, incidents involving Roma citizens in the area and the botched investigation into the death of a young woman. He received death threats following the latter story.
The attack on 31-year-old Masiak took place in the bathroom of a local establishment at about 2am on 14 June. Police have issued an international arrest warrant for Bartosz Nowicki, a 29-year-old mixed martial arts fighter. Two people who were earlier detained have now been released. Police consider them witnesses to the incident.
Masiak had previously received threats over the phone and through the mail, local media reported. In December 2014, he was sent his own obituary. In January 2014, he was the victim of a physical assault in near his home, in which he said he had also been tear gassed.
“It certainly was not a robbery.” Masiak said at the time. “It was a person who was waiting for me. For sure it was about posting reports on the portal.”
Though the journalist had reported incidents to the police, there had been no arrests by the time of his murder.
Alicja Śledziona, police spokesperson for the region of Mazowieckie, said that the department had received two complaints from the journalist. Masiak had told the department that the January and December 2014 incidents could have been related to his reporting, including one about a traffic accident. She said both cases were treated very seriously, but investigators were unable to tie the incidents to individuals.
The killing has been met with widespread condemnation from press unions and media freedom organisations.
“Media workers in Europe are facing an increased level of violence as they do their jobs. We call on the European Union and governments across the continent to mount a concerted effort to protect press freedom and the lives of media workers by aggressively pursuing threats of violence against journalists,” said Index on Censorship CEO Jodie Ginsberg.
“Index has been tracking threats to journalists across Europe for more than a year, through our Mapping Media Freedom project, and have noted a worrying trend of violence towards the sector. Around the world, there have been 54 murders of journalists so far this year. It shouldn’t have to take another death to make protecting journalists a priority at the highest levels of government,” Ginsberg added.
The crime was condemned by the Press Freedom Monitoring Centre of the Association of Polish Journalists. The body wrote to Polish Interior Minister Teresy Piotrowskiej, criticising the failure of state authorities to provide him with “elementary security”.
Mogens Blicher Bjerregård, president of the European Federation of Journalists, shared his organisation’s condolences with Masiak’s family and demanded an “effective investigation in order to find and prosecute the responsible perpetrators for this horrible crime”. EFJ, along with Reporters Without Borders, is partnered with Index on the Mapping Media Freedom project.
Dunja Mijatović, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, strongly condemned the killing and expressed her condolences to Masiak’s family and colleagues. “This is a tragedy and a horrific reminder of the dangers journalists face around the world,” Mijatović said. “Journalists are increasingly targeted because of their profession and what they say and write, and this trend has to stop.”
Mapping Media Freedom