The immortality of truth versus the mortality of power-hungry oligarchs: Slovak journalist Ján Kuciak was shot dead because of his work. Two years after his murder, it is still unclear who ordered his death.
Today is the second anniversary of the murder of the Slovak investigative journalist Ján Kuciak. He was only 28 years old when he was shot dead together with his partner Martina Kušnírová by hired assassins. Before his death, he was investigating organized crime structures, tax evasion and corruption among Slovak politicians and oligarchs.
In December 2019, 42-year-old Zoltan Andrusko was sentenced to 15 years in jail in a plea deal for facilitating the murder of Kuciak. A month later, the trial for the murder of Kuciak finally began, with Marián Kočner, who has long been thought to have ties to organized crime, standing accused of ordering the killing of Kuciak. The court now has to determine if he committed the crime.
The power of the public
Kuciak’s murder sent shockwaves through Slovakia, triggering nationwide mass protests and eventually leading to the resignation of the Prime Minister and the Minister of the Interior.
Kuciak is one of the numerous journalists worldwide who have been killed or subjected to violence because of their pursuit of the truth. Yet, his case might determine the future of Slovakia. Namely, Slovaks will be going to the ballot box on February 29. The results oft he election are expected to determine if the deep societal trauma experienced by Slovak citizens after Kuciak’s death, can bring about fundamental change in the politics of the country.
"The truth is stronger than death"
However, it’s not only Slovaks hoping the perpetrators will be held accountable.
Věra Jourová is the Vice President for Values and Transparency in the EU Commission. Speaking to DW, Jourová shared that she made a promise to the families to follow the investigations closely. "The ones who have committed those crimes have to be brought to justice. I see this process is ongoing in Slovakia. And I will do my best so that such tragedies do not happen again. The Commission has asked Slovakia to carry out reforms to strengthen the fight against corruption and crime and uphold the rule of law. I will also come with initiatives by the end of the year for a safer environment for journalists and to strengthen media pluralism."
Jourová also told DW that visiting the house where Ján and Martina were murdered was one of "the two most difficult moments" her last mandate, the other one being visiting the grave of the Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, who was also murdered in 2017. "I was standing next to the door of the house where the young couple was murdered. It was written 'Love is stronger than death'. It is true. And the truth is stronger than death. It needs to be protected, journalists have to be better protected."
In the context of Kuciak’s murder, Jourová underlined the importance of adopting an ethical standpoint whilst distributing EU funding to member states: "Ján Kuciak was tracing the misuse of EU money. We must make sure EU money does not become dirty money. And this is why there is a strong link between the respect for the rule of law and EU funding in our proposals: it is crucial and should stay in."
…and the truth is immortal
Jourová was also present in the European Parliament (EP) on the occasion of the unveiling of the commemorative exhibition for Kuciak and Kušnírová as well as Galizia. She called for full prosecutions of all the politicians involved in the murders of the two journalists.
The exhibition bearing the title "Immortal Truth" is organised by a Slovak and a Maltese member of the EP, named Lucia Duriš Nicholsonová and David Casa respectively. In the video unveiled before the opening of the exhibition, Nicholsonová said: "For their sacrifice and dedication, a monument that will stand in the European Parliament in their honour and in honour of their fight."
"We cannot forget that the truth is immortal."