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Slovakia: the brutal murder of Jan Kuciak and his fiancée has shaken the pillars of investigative journalism

A brutal murder of journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kusnirova has shaken the pillars of investigative journalism in Slovakia. The couple was shot in their house in Velka Maca last week and many journalists and analysts do not doubt that the homicide was associated with Kuciak´s work, which was suggested also by police president Tibor Gaspar. Kuciak focused mostly on cases regarding economic criminality and his published materials often included names of very influentian people of social, economic and political life. One of the threads even leads to the presence of Italian mafia in the eastern region of Slovakia. This version as a possible cause of the murder was also mentioned by investigative journalist Tom Nicholson who has worked on similar topics as Kuciak and confirmed that the activities of Ndrangheta were at the centre of Kuciak´s attention in the past months: „There is a possibility that this mafia has been stealing money from EU funds, sending them back to Italy.“ Nicholson suggests that such a group has operated in the area of Michalovce and Trebisov, having obtained millions of EUR from fictional business in the field of agriculture.
Former head of police investigators Jaroslav Ivor draws the attention to the fact that the murder was executed in a very precise way – one shot into each of the victims, which may confirm the hypothesis that the shooter was professional and the murder was intentional. There were projectiles placed around the bodies, which could mean the warning to anyone who might want to continue in murdered journalist´s investigative work. A special team of experts has been established to investigate the crime and Slovak government offers one million EUR for any information that would lead to solution of the case. If the murder concerned Kuciak´s work, „he must have discovered something really big,“ affirms security analyst Milan Zitny. „It has led us to an absolute darkness – in regard to all citizens and the world, but also in regard to journalists. Immediate measures for their protection should be taken by the state,“ adds analyst Juraj Zabojnik. According to Frantisek Mucka, former columnist of one of the national newspapers and current chief editor of internet portal Postoj.sk, the work of young reporter of the portal Aktuality.sk was the example of an „innovative style of journalism“. He obtained the information through very thorough investigation of public sources, where he was able to find the traces of organized crimes, put them together and challenge their protagonists. „His work pointed to the fact how frequent was the connection between organized crime and politicians,“ writes Mucka, describing Jan Kuciak as courageous and inventional journalist who was not even afraid to disclose the intrigues of the most influential and powerful people.
The police president has confirmed that the protection will be provided to several journalists with no other specified details. The police is to cooperate with editorial office for which Kuciak had worked, with the intention to put a special emphasis on investigation of the causes that might have led to his murder.

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