Labour MEPs: EU must assist investigation into murder of Ján Kuciak and bring in new protections for journalists

MEPs united this week to condemn the barbaric murders in Slovakia of investigative journalist Ján Kuciak and his partner Martina Kušnírová, with Socialists and Democrats MEPs calling for the EU to do all it can to assist in the investigation, and work to implement new laws that will enhance journalists’ safety and bring to justice those guilty of abuse, threats and intimidation of journalists.

The European Parliament has released a report on the crisis in Slovakia, citing concerns “over the involvement of mafia and the presence of organised crime in the country”.

Slovakia’s prime minister Robert Fico offered to resign yesterday, and interior minister Robert Kaliňák has already done so, withdrawing his Most-Hid party from the governing coalition, depriving Mr Fico of his majority.

Claude Moraes MEP, chair of the European Parliament civil liberties, justice and home affairs committee, said:

“We’d like to express our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Ján Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kušnírová for their loss. The shocking death of this young couple has not only struck us on human level as we saw in our visit to his home, and of course we are here today to make sense of the wider issues as they affect our wider European Union values.

“I co-chaired the delegation to Slokavia, where we met journalists and NGOS and representatives of the protestors, right through to the president and prime minister, and the highest level of law and judicial enforcement. We held extensive discussions with the highest audit and agricultural payment agencies to get to the bottom of the connections between the story of Mr Kuciak and any links to the mafia and the state.

“We would advise a joint investigation team with Europol given the wider cross-border concerns over the killings. We appreciate how big the Slovak investigation is but a joint investigation is more than assistance – it gives another agency access to the investigation and we would suggest increases international EU trust in the investigation.”

Claude Moraes MEP added:

“In the case of Slovakia, there is no doubt: we found a vibrant free press, but crucially, these shocking murders were preceded by allegations of intimidation in relation to the particular corruption allegations of Mr Kuciak, confirmed by other journalists. We did not flinch from asking all of the tough questions directly to Mr Fico and other ministers.

“As MEPs it is not for us to be the judge and jury in this shocking case but we have a duty under the treaties, and because we are a union of values, to respond to these issues and to wisely judge the response – new press protections are urgently required, specifically protection for journalists investigating corruption and for whistleblowers, and we would hope that all political groups will support us on this.

“This is the second murder of a prominent journalist reporting on illicit financial activities in Europe in the past six months. These cases show the lengths that organised criminals will go to prevent scrutiny of their activities. Investigative journalists play an essential role in society and the EU needs to do more to support their work. We owe it to Daphne Caruana Galizia and Ján Kuciak to ensure no more journalists are murdered for doing their job.”