Slovak investigative journalist Jan Kuciak and his girlfriend have been murdered in their own house. Kuciak and his partner were shot to death, the Ministry of Interior confirmed.
His murder is unprecedented in the modern history of Slovakia. Although two other journalists are missing – Pavol Rypal since 2008 and Miroslav Pejko since 2015 – a confirmed murder of a journalist has not occurred since 1990. The last murder in Central Europe occurred in 1992 in the Czech Republic.
Kuciak’s murder could spark public protests leading to a government crisis. Kuciak’s last article for Aktuality.sk covered alleged tax fraud connected to the luxury Five Star Residence in Bratislava and the suspicious activities of businessman Marian Kocner and his links to the ruling political party Smer.
Kuciak together with his colleagues had also published articles about the involvement of Smer politicians in the Basternak affair, which implicated the current Minister of Interior Robert Kalinak and former industry minister Jan Pociatek.
Kocner had previously threatened to kill Kociak. “I will pay attention specially to you, your personally, your mother, your father and your siblings,” said Kocner to Kuciak, who investigated his business operations in another luxury residence Bonaparte. Kuciak devoted half of his last articles to Kocner himself.
“We are going to deploy a maximum number of police officers and forces, so we can solve the case as soon as possible. Slovakia has never faced such a cruel attack on a journalist,” said Police President Tibor Gaspar during a press briefing on February 26. Kuciak’s murder is most likely connected to his work, Gaspar added.
Gaspar also confirmed his conversation with the chief editor of Aktuality.sk and stated that some journalists are going to be under police protection.
The publishing house Ringier, which owns Aktuality.sk, issued a written statement: “We are shocked and horrified by the news that Jan Kuciak and his partner are probably victims of a cruel execution. Even though the background is not completely clear, there is reason to believe that his murder is connected to his investigative work.”
The political elite also reacted quickly. “We have to find the perpetrators as quickly as possible and ensure the security of journalists,” said President Andrej Kiska.
Member of the European Parliament (KDH) Anna Zaborska called on Kalinak to step down. “Slovakia is since today included among countries in which investigative journalists can be killed. The Minister of Interior has a political responsibility.”
Prime Minister Robert Fico held a meeting with Kalinak and Gaspar. During the press briefing after the meeting, Fico announced a reward of €1mn for information leading to the capture of the perpetrators. Fico also said a special team will be created to investigate the murder.
In the meantime, thousands of people joined Facebook events to honour the memory of Kuciak and his partner.