MEPs urge thorough investigation of Slovak journalist's murder ahead of plenary debate

Written by Martin Banks on 12 March 2018 in Opinion
Opinion

MEPs will this week hold a formal debate in Parliament on the murder of Slovak journalist Jan Kuciak and his partner Martina Kušnírová.

Parliament delegation to Slovakia - Commemorating event in front of the houseof Mr Kuciak in the presence of the mayor of Velka Maca | Photo credit: European Parliament audiovisual


It follows a fact finding MEP delegation to Slovakia last week into the affair.

The findings of that visit will serve as a background for the 14 March plenary debate into the twin murders and the wider issue about the protection of journalists in Europe.

The plenary debate on Wednesday will wind up with a resolution to be voted at the 16-19 April Strasbourg plenary session.


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Kuciak mainly focussed on tax evasion stories and recently covered a suspected tax fraud connected to a luxury development in Bratislava. His latest research evolved around possible connections between the Calabrian mafia ‘Ndrangheta to the Slovak police.

The Council and the Commission will make a statement on the issue in plenary on Wednesday afternoon.

On Monday, the MEPs who were in Slovakia last week said they will urge a thorough investigation into the murders of Kuciak and his fiancée and into alleged misuse of EU funds in Slovakia.

The co-Chair of the delegation, Ingeborg Gräßle, a German EPP group member, said, “We expect the Slovak authorities to thoroughly investigate the murder of Kuciak and his fiancée. Our concerns over alleged misuse of the EU funds remain even after this visit.”

She added, “We will monitor closely the development of the situation as it is of utmost importance to regain the trust of the citizens in the state institutions”.

The MEP, who chairs Parliament’s budgetary control committee, said, “The murder raised concerns about corruption and safeguarding press freedom in EU countries. The case needs to be resolved.”

Delegation co-Chair Claude Moraes, a UK S&D group member, said, “The whole Parliament was shocked to hear of the horrific murder of investigative journalist Kuciak and his partner. The EU must do everything it can to support the ongoing investigation. 

Moraes, who heads up Parliament’s civil liberties committee, added, “Investigative journalists play an essential role in shining a light on shady dealings and we must ensure they can do so in safety and without fear of repercussions.”

The ad hoc delegation consisted of six members of Parliament’s civil liberties committee and budgetary control committee.

The group, comprising deputies from six different political groups, visited Slovakia on 8-9 March to look into the situation locally following the murders.

During the trip, the delegation met with a wide range of state and government representatives, including Slovak President Andrej Kiska, Prime Minister Robert Fico, the ministers of the interior, justice, finance and agriculture and leaders of opposition parties. They held meetings with law enforcement authorities, including the General Prosecutor and the President of the police, and the Slovak Agricultural Paying Agency.

While in Bratislava, MEPs also discussed the current situation with anti-corruption NGOs, journalists and representatives of protesters, who have held nationwide protest vigils in memory of the murdered journalist and his fiancée. They also visited Veľká Mača, the village where Kuciak and Kušnírová lived and were found murdered.

A spokesperson for the ECR group said, “We are united in our belief that a free press underpins all our rights and freedoms and that a journalist should never be killed for simply going about their job. There now needs to be a thorough independent investigation, with international support if necessary.”

The Greens/EFA group had called for the debate this week and one of their MEPs, Hungarian member Benedek Jávor, took part in the mission to Slovakia.

His German colleague Reinard Bütikofer said, “Europe cannot pretend to be a beacon of free speech in the world when journalists are killed for speaking truth to power.”

Kuciak, 27, had reported for the news site Aktuality.sk on fraud cases, including stories such as tax frauds with connections to high profile businessmen and government officials. He had also investigated the Slovak connection in the Panama Papers.

 

About the author

Martin Banks is a senior reporter for the Parliament Magazine

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