MEPs have called for an independent investigation into the murder of Slovak journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancée and also demanded a better protection of investigative journalism. EURACTIV.fr reports.
On 25 February, the 27-year-old Kuciak and his partner Martina Kušnírová were found dead at their home. At the time, Kuciak was investigating the link between Italian and Slovak politicians with the Calabrian mafia.
His death unleashed a series of peaceful demonstrations in Slovakia (the biggest since the 1989 Velvet Revolution) which resulted in a political crisis that led to the resignation of Prime Minister Robert Fico.
The resolution was adopted on 19 April with 573 votes in favour, 27 against and 47 abstentions. It calls for a thorough and independent investigation of the murders led jointly with Europol, along with setting up national and European measures to better protect journalists and whistleblowers. It also suggests the establishment of a permanent EU scheme to support independent investigative journalism.
According to the European Parliament’s communiqué, it has “raised the alarm about the potential infiltration of organised crime in the Slovak economy and politics at all levels“.
“As Jean-Claude Juncker said, the killing or intimidation of journalists has no place in Europe or in any other democracy,” stated Julian King, Security Commissioner at the opening of the debate.
“In order to determine whether the investigation involves European funds and cross-border exchanges, it will require the full cooperation of OLAF (European Anti-Fraud Office). If fraud is proven, this will illustrate why we need the European public prosecutor.”
MEPs are appalled at the fact that this double murder has been the second targeting an investigative journalist on European soil in the past six months. Daphne Caruana Galizia, a journalist from Malta, was killed in a car explosion on 16 October.
“Two respected investigative journalists have been murdered in Europe in the last six months. This shows how far organised crime members are willing to go to hide their financial activities and why the work of investigative journalists is so important,” stated the British MEP Claude Moraes (S&D).
Daphne Caruana Galizia”s blog was the most read in Malta. In it, she denounced government corruption and worked on a high-level corruption network involving Maltese politicians. Joseph Muscat, who has been prime minister since 2013, was the main target of the journalist’s articles.
Eighteen international medias united under the name “Forbidden Stories” have decided to investigate her murder and continue her investigative work, a project now renamed “Daphne Project”.
According to Laurent Richard, editor-in-chief of the production company Premières lignes and initiator of Forbidden Stories, the project’s aim is to give a strong message to enemies of the press by showing that there is no purpose in attacking a reporter, as behind the scenes there are 10, 20, 30 journalists who are ready to take over”.
The team started revealing on 17 April the results of their joint investigation. Le Monde, which is also participating, reported that the trail of political sponsors for the murder was dismissed by the police, yet, Economy Minister Chris Cardona was seen in a bar with one of the alleged killers a few weeks after the murder.
Cardona, who vehemently denied meeting the killer, then added that he “did not have any recollection of it”. Furthermore, the three alleged killers did not have any relation with the victim.
Forbidden Stories will keep publishing several chapters of the investigation over the next few days. The revelations of money laundering and corruption have shaken the Maltese parliament, the opposition now calls on the government “to tell the truth and stop ruining the country’s reputation,” states Le Monde.
The three murders in six months have shocked the whole continent and revealed that the situation of journalists in many countries is still alarming.
The annual report published by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) last December stated that 65 journalists were killed worldwide in 2017. The trend is downward, which can be explained by “the many campaigns waged by international NGOs and media organisations on the need to provide journalists with more protection”.
This trend is also explained by the fact that journalists are leaving dangerous countries. The world’s deadliest countries for journalists are Mexico, Iraq and Afghanistan. Moreover, countries that do not respect the freedom of the press do not hesitate to imprison journalists. In 2017, 326 journalists were put behind bars (of whom 52 in China).
“Journalists have the right to investigate, to ask uncomfortable questions and to report effectively. This is what Jan Kuciak was doing, this appears to be why he was murdered.[…] Member states have a duty to make sure that press freedom and journalists are protected on their territory in a law and in spirit,” stated Commissioner Julian King.