Press group urges action in slain Slovak reporter case

An international press freedom group held a memorial Friday for slain Slovakian reporter Jan Kuciak to keep pressure on local authorities to solve his killing and to draw attention to crimes against journalists worldwide.

The Vienna-based International Press Institute said nearly 75 journalists have been killed around the world in 2018, including Kuciak and his fiancee Martina Kusnirova , who were found shot dead in their home on Feb. 21.

More recently, Jamal Khashoggi, a contributor to The Washington Post, was killed inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, according to Turkish officials.

"This is, let's say, a major concern also here in Europe," said IPI chairman Markus Spillmann, the former editor-in-chief of Switzerland's Neue Zuercher Zeitung. "Even in democracies you see this kind of harassment, this kind of threatening and this kind of violence against journalism. So I would say the line, the red line, has been moved and not in a good direction."

He spoke in Bratislava at a memorial to Kuciak. Participants held signs with pictures of Khashoggi, Kuciak and other slain journalists reading "No Impunity!"

In Berlin, the German government's human rights envoy, Baerbel Kofler, marked the day with a call for all crimes against journalists to be properly investigated "so that those responsible can be held accountable and journalists can work without fear."

"We are convinced that attacks against journalists are not only directed against individuals, but are also attacks on freedom of opinion and freedom of information," she said.

Kuciak had been investigating possible widespread government corruption and ties between Slovak politicians and Italian mobsters when he was killed. Slovak authorities have said they believe it was a contract killing linked to his work.

The killings of Kuciak and his fiancee triggered a political crisis in Slovakia that resulted in major protests, the dismissal of the national police chief and the collapse of the government.

Four suspects have been charged in the case but the mastermind is believed to be still at large, IPI said.

Earlier this week, Spillmann led a journalism delegation that held talks with Slovakian President Andrej Kiska, who expressed optimism that the person behind the killings would be found, IPI said.

John Daniszewski, IPI's special representative for journalists' safety and Vice President and Editor-at-Large for Standards of The Associated Press, cautioned in Bratislava that beyond the better known cases like Kuciak and Khashoggi, journalism was under attack around the world — "often by criminals, sometimes by governments."

"When journalism is suppressed, the public loses their right to know and democracy is harmed," he said.


David Rising in Berlin and Pablo Gorondi in Budapest contributed to this report.