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[vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”98320″ img_size=”full” add_caption=”yes” alignment=”center”][vc_column_text]On behalf of the undersigned media freedom organisations, representing thousands of journalists and human rights activists across Europe, we urge the Slovak authorities to immediately start examining state responsibility in the failure to prevent the assassination of Ján Kuciak.
Tomorrow marks a full year since journalist Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kušnírová were murdered in Slovakia. Kuciak was investigating cross-border corruption and links between powerful people and various mafia networks.
Since February 2018, we have closely monitored press and media freedom in Slovakia. We welcome the arrests of suspects who have now been charged in connection with Kuciak’s and Kušnírová’s murder.
However, a few months before he was killed, Kuciak reported threats against his person to the police. He published a post on his Facebook timeline on 20 October 2017 describing the absence of police actions after he had officially reported a threat by the businessman Marián Kočner. “It’s 44 days since I filed a threat … and the case probably doesn’t even have a particular cop [named in the case]”, his post reads.
When journalists report threats against them, the state is obliged to protect their life under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights. We are concerned that to date there has been no adequate investigation of possible state breaches in its protective obligation.
We need answers to the following questions: (i) whether Slovakia knew, or ought to have known, of a present and immediate threat to his life; (ii) which steps, if any, have they taken to protect Kuciak from that threat; (iii) and what will be done to protect Slovak journalists in the future.
The killing of Kuciak and Kušnírová shocked the European public and has had a chilling effect on other journalists. In an environment of intimidation, threats, political interference and impunity, investigative journalists have to fear for their lives to fulfil their work and report on corruption and other threats to democracy. The value of independent journalism and free media should not be put into question. Anti-media rhetoric from those in high office is unacceptable, all the more so after the assassination of Ján Kuciak.
In addition, in January 2019 the Slovak ruling party proposed a bill, which would amend the Press Act to reintroduce a “right of reply”. If passed, this provision would contribute to an increasingly hostile environment for the free press by providing politicians who are the subject of critical news with the means to censor unwanted criticism. We call on the Slovak parliament to reject this bill. Moreover, the Government of the Slovak Republic must not undermine trust in public institutions, including the now to be newly composed Constitutional Court. It is its duty to uphold the rule of law.
We ask the Slovak authorities to carefully consider the resolution, approved by the LIBE Committee of the European Parliament on 19. February 2019, that includes a call on the Government of Slovakia to ensure the safety of journalists.
It is imperative that all relevant state authorities take effective and consistent action to counter the lack of safety for journalists across Europe. We seek justice for Ján Kuciak’s killing. We will keep pressuring until the perpetrators are found and duly convicted according to European standards.
European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
Association of European Journalists (AEJ)
European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
Index on Censorship
Osservatorio Balcani Caucaso Transeuropa (OBCT)
Ossigeno per l’informazione
Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO)[/vc_column_text][vc_basic_grid post_type=”post” max_items=”4″ element_width=”6″ grid_id=”vc_gid:1550595459123-d392e909-52fc-7″ taxonomies=”22979, 69, 7357, 6564″][/vc_column][/vc_row]
Dear President Juncker,
We, the undersigned organisations, are deeply saddened and appalled by the recent killings of Slovak journalist Ján Kuciak and Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. These killings on European soil in retaliation for the investigative reporting by these journalists are simply unacceptable.
We welcome the condemning of these killings by the European Union (EU) institutions. However, we demand that no further time is wasted and these words are followed by action. We urge high-level officials from the European Commission to retain regular communication with senior police authorities in Slovakia and Malta to ensure that police investigations are full, thorough and independent.
Moreover, the European Commission must take the lead and hold state officials and public figures to account for creating an environment in which the critical function of journalism is respected. State officials and public figures should consistently speak out in support of the critical function of journalism and support journalists when they are attacked.
A climate in which impunity prevails and in which journalists are only respected when they serve the interests of those in power, paves the way for violence. These murders signal the urgent need to support civil society in the EU Member States in their efforts to fight impunity, and to document and promote accountability for violations of press freedom.
In today’s world where a journalist is killed every five days with almost full impunity as a result, we have to stop the European region from becoming an environment where journalists are no longer safe to do their work. We call on the European Commission to work, as a priority, with Member States to begin the process of establishing national protection mechanisms for journalists in Europe.
When journalists are killed, they are silenced and the public is deprived of their stories. In the cases of Ján Kuciak and Daphne Caruana Galizia stories about corruption, organised crime and abuse of power. Stories the people have a right to know about.
Safety of journalists is a precondition for good journalism that serves the societies and audiences. Our European democracies cannot thrive when journalists are silenced and cannot inform people about important developments and hold power holders to account.
We urge the European Commission to call on the governments of its Member States to implement without any delay their existing commitments to provide a safe, enabling environment for journalists, flowing from numerous adopted United Nations resolutions on the safety of journalists and the Council of Europe recommendation on the Protection of Journalism and the Safety of Journalists and other media actors.
We urge the European Commission to take the lead in stepping up their efforts to protect journalists within Europe. The undersigned organisations stand ready to support in such efforts.
Your response to the killings of Ján Kuciak and Daphne Caruana Galizia will set a precedent for what is permissible in the European Union. A safe future for journalists in Europe is in your hands.
Committee to Protect Journalists
European Centre for Press and Media Freedom
European Federation of Journalists
European Journalism Centre
La Fundación para la Libertad de Prensa
Free Press Unlimited
Global Forum for Media Development
International Federation of Journalists
Index on Censorship
International Media Support
International Press Institute
Rory Peck Trust
Reporters Without Borders
Samir Kassir Foundation – SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom
Index on Censorship condemns the murder of investigative journalist Jan Kuciak in Slovakia — just months after the killing of Daphne Caruana Galizia in Malta. Kuciak was known for his investigations on tax fraud among businessmen connected to the country’s ruling party. He and his girlfriend were reported to have been shot dead at his home over the weekend, news website Dennik N reported on Monday, citing the Interior Ministry.
The murders raise troubling questions about the safety of media professionals in the European Union, says Index.
“A thorough and transparent investigation into the murder of Jan Kuciak is extremely important. Index calls on the European Union to ensure that an independent investigation takes place and that the legal process meets international standards” Index’s head of advocacy Joy Hyvarinen said. “Investigative journalism is vital to healthy democracies. In 2017, Index on Censorship’s Mapping Media Freedom platform documented 67 cases in which journalists were targeted with threats, violence and death for reporting on corruption.”
Corruption is becoming a major issue in the EU and neighbouring countries, undermining democracy and putting individuals at risk. Journalists play a key role in uncovering and fighting corruption through their investigations and, as a result, put themselves in danger.
On 16 October the Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was murdered when the car she was driving exploded. Caruana Galizia published a number of articles on her blog investigating corruption.
“We need to stop behaving as if threats to journalists’ safety happen ‘somewhere else,’” said Index on Censorship CEO Jodie Ginsberg. “Prominent journalists in the United States get regular death threats – and are becoming used to it as part of their daily lives. Meanwhile, in the European Union two investigative journalists have been killed in less than six months. We need to wake up to this growing menace.”
On 16 August, Parim Olluri, editor-in-chief of investigative website Insajderi, was physically assaulted by unknown individuals outside his home in Kosovo’s capital Pristina. Olluri believes the attack was linked to his work. A few days before the assault, Olluri had published an editorial about corruption allegations against former Kosovo Liberation Army commanders, after which he received a torrent of abuse and threats on social media.
Failure to properly investigate cases and bring perpetrators to justice fosters an atmosphere encouraging further attacks.