A ruling last week ordering a retrial in the murders of a Slovak journalist and his fiancée has led to a “unique” opportunity to break a global cycle of impunity in journalist killings, press freedom groups have said.
A Slovak businessman with alleged links to organised crime has been found not guilty of ordering the murder of journalist Jan Kuciak in a ruling that has left press freedom campaigners and politicians shocked.
Journalists and rights activists have welcomed the jailing of a man for the murders of Slovak investigative reporter Jan Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kusnirova, but say others involved in the killings must be convicted too if justice is to be fully served.
Plans announced by Slovakia’s prime minister-elect to fund investigative journalists to act as corruption watchdogs on government and state bodies have been dismissed as “a road to hell” by local journalists.
As four people appear in court in Slovakia over the murder of journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kusnirova, both 27, the trial is being seen by many as a historic moment for not just press freedom in the country but public faith in its justice system.
Press freedom campaigners and journalists in Malta are hoping they could soon see justice for murdered Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia – and that a powerful message will be sent across Europe that a free press can deny corrupt officials the power to act with impunity.
In 2014, worried about editorial independence after local businessmen bought a substantial stake in the major Slovak daily newspaper they worked at, a small group of journalists left in protest and set up their own paper run solely by the journalists themselves to ensure impartiality.
“I’ve never known a time when it was as bad as it is now,” says Beata Balogova, the Vice-Chair of the International Press Institute (IPI) and Editor in Chief of the Slovak publication Sme. “In terms of what’s going on with journalists, we’re in a very unique period,” she adds.