EU parliament demands independent probe into Slovak reporter’s murder

People take part in a rally against corruption and to pay tribute to murdered Slovak journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancee Martina Kusnirova in March 2018 in Bratislava, Slovakia

Strasbourg (France) (AFP) – The European Parliament called Thursday on Slovakia to ensure a full and independent investigation into the murder of an investigative reporter while demanding better protections for all journalists in the EU.

The appeal was adopted by 573 MEPs — with 27 against and 47 abstentions — after journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancee Martina Kusnirova were shot dead in Slovakia in February.

“MEPs called on Slovak authorities to deploy all necessary resources to ensure a full, thorough and independent investigation of the double murder,” the parliament said in a statement. 

They said it was preferable that European police agency Europol join the investigation.

“They also urge them to protect investigative journalists from any form of intimidation and defamation charges and from attacks aimed at silencing them,” it added.

With mass street protests since the murders, Slovakia has been plunged into a political crisis that has forced the cabinet and police chief to resign.

Critics had argued that Police Chief Tibor Gaspar’s alleged political connections prevented a fair investigation into the murder of Kuciak who had been probing alleged ties between top politicians and the Italian mafia.

Kuciak’s murder occurred months after anti-corruption journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, 53, was assassinated by a car bomb on October 16 in Malta.

Eighteen international media outlets are pursuing their own investigation into Galizia’s murder as her sons accuse the Maltese government of handling the case like a public relations campaign.

The blogger had made repeated and detailed corruption allegations against Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and members of his inner circle, as well as the opposition.

“The murders of Daphne Caruana Galizia and Jan Kuciak are an attempt to undermine our fundamental values and a blow to the rule of law in the European Union,” European Parliament president Antonio Tajani said. 

The MEPs also condemned “insulting comments” some EU politicians made towards journalists and urged all EU countries to protect the personal safety and livelihoods of investigative journalists and whistle-blowers.

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico once told journalists they were “dirty, anti-Slovak whores” and used terms like “plain, silly hyenas” and “slimy snakes” to describe the media.

The MEPs called for better protection of journalists subjected to frequent lawsuits “intended to censor their work” and for “a permanent EU scheme to support independent investigative journalism.”

It also called for “better monitoring of media ownership concentration.”