The AEJ has played a role in the campaign for justice in the murders of Slovak journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancee Martina Kusnirova.
On 15 June 2021 Slovakia’s Supreme Court overturned the acquittal of two men accused of planning and funding the killings in February 2018 and sent the case back to a lower court. Three other men were sentenced to between 15 and 25 years for actually carrying out the murders.
The murders sparked massive protests, forced long-term leader Robert Fico to step down as prime minister, and finally ushered in a new government in 2020 with promises to clean up corruption and sleaze.
When businessman Marian Kocner and his associate Alena Zsuzsova were acquitted in September 2020 the AEJ Slovak section promised journalists in Slovakia would keep monitoring the activities of police and prosecutors and continue to expose illegal activities and corruption.
In February 2019 the AEJ joined nine other international organisations concerned about press freedom and freedom of expression to call for an investigation into the state authorities in Slovakia over the failure to prevent the murders.
That appeal marked the first anniversary of the mafia-style killing of Kuciak and Kusnirova on 21 February 2018.
The European Parliament’s Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee adopted a resolution calling for the Slovak government to ensure the safety of journalists and expressed concern about “allegations of corruption, conflict of interest and impunity in Slovakia’s circles of power”.
The media freedom organisations representing thousands of journalists and human rights activists across Europe welcomed the arrests of suspects who were charged in connection with Kuciak’s and Kusnirova’s murder but urged the Slovak authorities to examine their responsibility in failing to prevent the assassinations.
A few months before he was killed Kuciak reported threats against him.
The state is obliged to protect the life of journalists under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights and the media freedom organisations said so far there had been no adequate investigation of possible state breaches of its protective obligation.
They called for answers to the following questions:
– whether Slovakia knew, or ought to have known, of a present and immediate threat to his life;
– which steps, if any, have they taken to protect Kuciak from that threat;
– and what will be done to protect Slovak journalists in the future.
In December 2018 the AEJ joined other partner organisations on the safety of journalists to press the Slovak government to bring all those responsible for the murder to justice.
A delegation of the AEJ and partner organisations visited the Slovak capital Bratislava on Dec.6 2018 and also urged the Slovakian government to counter the hostile working environment for investigative journalists and to make legal and policy reforms to ensure the personal safety of journalists as well as their contacts or sources.
In a somewhat ironic historical postscript, the eldest son of former Czechoslovak freedom campaigner and president Alexander Dubcek announced his candidacy in the European elections in 2019.
Pavol Dubcek, 70, said:
“My father always believed in the European integration and he wanted, that Czechs and Slovaks should live a better life similar to scandinavian states or Austria.”
Supreme Court overturns acquittal
Report from the Balkans
AEJ Slovak section reaction to acquittal
AEJ call for justice
AEJ joins media freedom delegation to Slovakia
Alexander Dubcek’s son stands for election