The sight of Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico standing next to 1 million euros in cash – ostensibly a reward for information leading to the arrest of the murderers of journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancee – has led to widespread condemnation from Slovak civil society.
One Slovak commentator said the scene was “like something from an episode of Narcos.”
Instead of rewards and publicity stunts, the Slovak authorities would be far better off ensuring that the investigation into the brutal killings is carried out in a transparent and thorough manner.
Mr Kuciak’s colleagues in the media say that authorities should look no further than his latest, unfinished article, published by Slovak media on February 28.
In the unfinished article, he alleges that businessmen in eastern Slovakia – with links to Calabria’s ‘Ndrangheta mafia – are embezzling EU structural funds, and also claims that they have strong political ties in the country.
Barbora Cernusakova, a Slovak researcher at Amnesty, said that “the safety of journalists is really only protected if governments respect and protect the freedom of expression and acknowledge the importance of the role of watchdogs and of investigative journalism.”
As Transparency International’s latest Corruption Perceptions Index (which we covered on February 28) points out, every week at least one journalist is killed in a country that is highly corrupt. And it is not merely journalists: civil society and NGO’s are being threatened too.
“No activist or reporter should have to fear for their lives when speaking out against corruption,” says Patricia Moreira, managing director of Transparency International. “Given current crackdowns on both civil society and the media worldwide, we need to do more to protect those who speak up.”
Offering 1 million euros cash does nothing to protect journalists and activists. It places them in more danger. Mr Fico’s gesture is reckless.
Photo: TV screenshot