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Members of the European Parliament visit Slovakia to pay their respects to the murdered journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancée Members of the European Parliament visit Slovakia to pay their respects to the murdered journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancée  (ANSA)

Slovakia facing political crisis after assassination of journalist

Slovakia's government is under pressure after the killing of an investigative journalist.

By Stefan J. Bos

Slovakia is facing political and social turmoil sparked by the assassination of an investigative journalist and his posthumously published unfinished article linking the Italian mafia to the government. But top politicians disagree on a strategy to end the chaos in the European Union nation, where massive anti-government protests are underway Friday.

With Slovakia turning from what seemed to be a stable EU member state into chaos, top politicians have failed to agree on a declaration to calm the tense situation.

The political turmoil follows the slayings in February of an investigative journalist, Jan Kuciak, and his fiancée, Martina Kusnirova, who were both just 27 years old.

They appeared to have been shot and killed in their home in the village of Velka Maca, in western Slovakia. Police said Kuciak's killing last month was likely linked to his work.

For his last unfinished story, Kuciak reported on the influence of the Italian mafia in Slovakia and its possible ties to people close to Prime Minister Robert Fico.

EU Concerned

An increasing number of people have started to turn against the Fico government, threatening its very existence.

And the European Union has expressed concern about both the allegations and the killings. The EU's Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova has called the shooting of the two young people an attack against the freedom of speech. "Let me strongly condemn the shocking murder of two innocent young people of the brave journalist," she said.

"This is not only an attack against people, but this is also an attack against freedom of speech and democracy and our values. And I strongly believe that the Slovak authorities maybe also in cooperation with the European agencies Europol and Eurojust will find and penalize the perpetrators so that we see that justice works and justice live in Slovakia and the European Union," the commissioner added.

Slovakia's President Andrej Kiska and Prime Minister Fico had each prepared a text on avoiding more social and political chaos.

But parliamentary speaker Andrej Danko, who met both men Friday, said they were not able to agree on a joint declaration.

Growing anger

The announcement came ahead of Friday's anti-government rallies planned across Slovakia and abroad. Protesters demand a thorough investigation into the shooting deaths of journalist Kuciak and his girlfriend as well as changes in the government.

Though Prime Minister Fico has offered a 1 million euro reward for anyone who comes forward with valuable information about the case, critics doubt his intentions.

Fico has regularly attacked journalists in the past, who he claimed often worked against the interests of Slovakia.

President Andrej Kiska said his country "faces a serious political crisis", following the first killing of a journalist in Slovakia.

Listen to Stefan Bos' report

 

09 March 2018, 17:26