Slovakia: Deputy PM’s attacks undermined government’s broader efforts to…

Slovakia: Deputy PM’s attacks undermined government’s broader efforts to strengthen press freedom

The undersigned international media freedom and journalists organisations today express dismay over the recent attempts by deputy Slovak Prime Minister Igor Matovič to denigrate the country’s media and warn they were undermining wider efforts by the government to improve the landscape for media freedom.

In recent weeks, Matovič, the former prime minister and current finance minister, launched numerous verbal attacks on the media, including insulting posts on Facebook which personally attacked the editor-in-chief of the newspaper Denník N, Matúš Kostolný, over a critical opinion piece.


Speaking in parliament, Matovič, who is also leader of the largest party in government, then accused unspecified media of being corrupt and during a speech on 29 September again accused the the country’s media of “spreading lies” and likened their journalism to Nazi propaganda.


These comments clearly overstepped the bounds of legitimate criticism and represented unacceptable attacks on independent journalism which were rightly condemned. Our organisations welcome Prime Minister Eduard Heger’s statement defending journalists and the criticism of the minister’s comments by nine MPs from his OĽANO party.


We also stand behind the powerful joint statement issued on September 30 by 22 of the country’s leading editors-in-chief, who condemned the minister’s rhetoric and refused to be pressured into silence for carrying out their role as public watchdogs.
While we note the statement of apology addressed by Matovič “to all honest journalists” on October 3, this will only have credibility if followed up by action. We therefore urge the minister to refrain from making any further unjustified accusations of the press and to recognise that public figures holding elected office have a duty to act responsibly and be prepared to accept a higher level of public scrutiny.


If repeated, Matovič’s attacks will undermine the coalition government’s broader efforts to improve the landscape for press freedom. The parliament has passed important bills strengthening the protection of the confidentiality of journalistic sources, as well as increasing transparency of media ownership and funding. The Justice Ministry has tabled amendments to widen the scope of the Freedom of Information Act and decrease prison sentences for defamation. While full justice for the 2018 assassination of the journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancée has not yet been reached, Slovak law-enforcement authorities are prosecuting corruption reported by journalists. Internationally, Slovakia has worked towards an ambitious European Media Freedom Act.


Moving forward, we hope to see the government continue this reform agenda and for an end to all further verbal attacks against the media. Our organisations will continue to closely monitor the situation in Slovakia in the coming weeks and months.

Signed by:

  • Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
  • ARTICLE 19 Europe
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
  • European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
  • Free Press Unlimited (FPU)
  • International Press Institute (IPI)
  • OBC Transeuropa (OBCT)

This statement was coordinated by the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), a Europe-wide mechanism which tracks, monitors and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States, Candidate Countries and Ukraine.

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Slovakia: Remembering Ján Kuciak: On fourth anniversary of murder,…

Slovakia: Remembering Ján Kuciak: On fourth anniversary of murder, IPI renews call for justice

Retrial of suspected masterminds must exhaustively consider all evidence. Today marks four years since the brutal murder of Slovak journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kušnírová in their home. The IPI global network today remembers Ján and Martina, and stands with their families, friends, and colleagues in the ongoing fight for justice. The retrial of the suspected masterminds, which begins later this month, must exhaustively consider all evidence in the case.

On February 21, 2018, Slovak investigative journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancée, archeologist Martina Kušnírová, were brutally murdered in their home. As a journalist working for the online news site, Kuciak had uncovered allegations of tax fraud and financial crime implicating prominent business and political leaders in Slovakia. The double murder sparked the largest protests in Slovakia since the Velvet Revolution, and led to the resignations of Prime Minister Róbert Fico, Interior Minister Robert Kaliňák, Culture Minister Marek Maďarič, and Chief of Police Tibor Gašpar.

Four years after Kuciak’s murder, the trial of the alleged masterminds is still ongoing. The fight for justice remains open. Prosecutors have alleged that controversial businessman Marian Kočner ordered Kuciak’s killing in response to Kuciak’s coverage of Kočner’s political and financial dealings, and asked a trusted associate, Alena Zsuzsová, to arrange it. Kočner and Zsusová were acquitted by a criminal court in 2020 after a months-long trial.

Last year, however, the Slovak Supreme Court overturned the acquittal decision, ordering a retrial. The retrial will begin on February 28, 2022, with judges expected to take into account evidence that was excluded from the first round of proceedings. IPI has closely monitored the trial, including attending several hearings in-person.

“The IPI global network today remembers Ján and Martina, whose lives were viciously cut short”, IPI Deputy Director Scott Griffen said. “We will not forget them, and, together with the courageous media community in Slovakia, we will not stop fighting for justice. This case remains open until every single person who played a role in these murders is behind bars. As the retrial begins, the Specialized Criminal Court now has a clear task: it must exhaustively consider all evidence and the full circumstances of this case. The deficiencies identified by the Supreme Court must be addressed and the logic of the original ruling scrutinized.”

High hopes

“Today we remember Ján Kuciak and  Martina Kušnírová and we await the retrial on February 28”, Editor-in-Chief Peter Bárdy told IPI. “We have good hopes that justice will be brought to them. The Slovak Supreme Court, which overturned the acquittal of Kočner, said a lot of mistakes were made by the first court. This new case will include a lot of new evidence. I am looking towards the future, with fair and justified results. That is what I am expecting.”

Despite nationwide protests after Kuciak’s killing, Slovakia is still struggling with fair and independent journalism, Bárdy told IPI. “After the murder in 2018, and after all the protests that followed, people believed that we would start a new period. A more democratic period, a fairer period. As journalists too, we hoped to have a better position. That the politicians would accept that we are a pillar of democracy, that we’re not enemies of the politicians, or enemies of the state. But after this time, we see that that journey is not easy.”

Dangerous hostility

After Kuciak’s death, several politicians have continued to verbally attack journalists, such as former Prime Minister Igo Matovič, who last year wrote on his Facebook page that “the journalists with Kuciak’s quality are to be counted on two hands in Slovakia – the rest is often superficial, often biased”. “During Matovic’ leadership, we wrote many articles about his government”, Bardy said. “He took those as personal attacks and started to fire back at the media by insulting us. This is very dangerous, as it creates a hostile climate against journalists.”

Some of the worst attacks, however, have come from former Prime Minister Fico, who made headlines for calling journalists “dirty, anti-Slovak prostitutes” while still in office. Just last month, Fico referred to journalists at leading independent media outlets Denník N, Sme, and Aktuality as an “organized crime group, and said law enforcement should start investigating how these journalists damage the statehood and to what extent they attack the state bodies of the Slovak Republic”.

On February 28, Bardy himself will not attend Kočner’s retrial, due to limited space in the courtroom. “There is only space for one journalist per outlet, unfortunately. But one of our journalists will be there the whole time to cover the case. We will watch it closely and really hope justice will be brought to Ján, Martina and their families.”

This statement by IPI is part of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), a Europe-wide mechanism which tracks, monitors and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States and Candidate Countries.

IPI as part of MFRR

Slovakia: Two Denník N journalists face charges for Kuciak…

Slovakia: Two Denník N journalists face charges for Kuciak murder probe revelation

IPI calls for criminal indictment to be dropped immediately

  • UPDATE 21-09-2021: Shortly after publication of this article, it was reported that the Bratislava Regional Prosecutor’s Office has annulled the criminal indictment as illegal and unfounded. IPI welcomes this vital vindication of Denník N’s public interest reporting.


The IPI global network today condemns the criminal charges against two Slovak journalists from independent daily Denník N involving the publication of a 2018 article related to the Ján Kuciak murder investigation. IPI urges the authorities to immediately drop the indictment.

On September 20, it was reported that the Slovak police prosecutor’s office had filed charges against Denník N investigative journalist Monika Tódová and Deputy Editor-in-Chief Konštantín Čikovsky. The charges stem from a report published in October 2018 in which the journalists revealed that former journalist-turned-spy chief Peter Tóth had monitored several journalists at the behest of Marián Kočner, the alleged mastermind in the murder, including Kuciak and Tódová herself.

Police prosecutors have now accused both journalists of revealing confidential information by disclosing Tóth’s identity as a secret witness. If found guilty, they could spend up to one year in prison.

“The indictment of Monika Tódová and Konštantín Čikovský is a deeply disturbing attack on press freedom in Slovakia”, IPI Deputy Director Scott Griffen said. “Their reporting was accurate and clearly in the public interest. It is therefore outrageous that they are now facing criminal charges for doing their job. Moreover, the timing of this complaint, years after the article was published and just weeks before the expiration of the statutory time limit, itself raises serious questions. We call for the immediate withdrawal of this indictment as well as for a review as to why it was issued in the first place. The IPI global network stands in solidarity with Denník N and its journalists, who, together with other leading Slovak media, have played a crucial role in ensuring that the truth about the murder of Ján Kuciak and Martina Kušnírová, and the circumstances behind it, comes to light.”

The journalists have three days to file an appeal to the indictment, Denník N’s editor-in-chief, Matúš Kostolný, told IPI. “We will definitely do so and our lawyers are already preparing the appeal.” Kostolný said he “strongly believed” the Bratislava prosecutor would accept the appeal and drop the charges. “We published an article which was correct at the moment and is still correct. The case is connected to the murder of Ján Kuciak. The people of this country have the right to know who was behind the murder and who organized it. That was the reason we published the article three years ago, and we have the same answer today.”

The newspaper accurately reported in 2018 that Tóth had decided to cooperate with investigators when it became apparent that his role in illegally gathering information on journalists would be discovered. Just before publication, Tóth went public himself and commented about the case on Facebook. After publication, he filed criminal charges alleging that the journalists could have put him in danger. This was rejected at the time by the police prosecutor. This changed in September 2021 when the Bratislava Prosecutor’s Office ordered the police prosecutor to press charges.

Kostolný questioned the decision by the Bratislava Prosecutor’s Office, which his newspaper has reported on critically in recent months, to order an indictment three years after the allegation was first made. “I would not be surprised if this was a punishment for our critical reporting”, he said.

Kostolný told IPI that the journalists received a high level of solidarity from fellow journalists and politicians. “The prime minister talked about it, and the minister of culture, who is responsible for the media, expressed her concerns.” The Slovak general prosecutor furthermore urged the Bratislava Prosecutor’s Office to review the case.

“We didn’t do anything wrong and our colleagues understand this. We only want to report freely”, Kostolný said. “I believe that justice will be done. None of us believes that it might end up putting them in jail for a year. It is clearly a stupid case and even in Slovakia, there are normal judges, prosecutors and pollice officers, who will not allow putting my colleagues under arrest.”

The Slovak government is currently working on an updated media law to strengthen journalistic safeguards and the protection of sources, among other changes. “The biggest problem for Slovak media is however not legislation, but the hate speech public figures express towards journalists”, Kostolný said. “We all know the result of this, as we have seen by the killing of Ján Kuciak three years ago.” He continued: “Such violence starts when public figures frame journalists as enemies of this country, as if we are the reason for all problems. This cannot be solved by a law alone.”


Slovak journalists denied entry to press conference on high-level…

Slovak journalists denied entry to press conference on high-level corruption case

IPI joins leading Slovak media in protesting move.

The IPI global press freedom network today condemned the decision of the Slovak general prosecutor’s office to arbitrarily bar journalists from joining a press conference on a matter of major public interest on September 2, 2021. IPI urges the general prosecutor’s office to ensure that such incidents are not repeated and to grant journalists free access to press conferences in the future. 

On September 2, the office of Maroš Žilinka, the Slovak general prosecutor, organized a press conference to which several media outlets were denied entrance. During this conference, Žilinka was due to offer an explanation of the controversial dropping of charges of several people, including an ex-spy boss. Journalists from the media outlets Denník N, Sme and arrived at the scene to report, after hearing about the 2pm press conference by accident, but were not allowed to attend. According to Sme, only journalists from four selected TV channels were allowed into the press conference, which the general prosecutor accredited to a lack of space. The general prosecutor did not publish a list of invited media.

“IPI joins leading editors in Slovakia in protesting against the unacceptable decision to block reporters from three leading media from accessing the general prosecutor’s press conference”, IPI Deputy Director Scott Griffen said. “There was no basis for this exclusion, which runs counter to democratic norms. There can be no discrimination against the press when it comes to access to information in the public interest. We urge the general prosecutor’s office to review its practices and ensure that similar incidents do not occur in the future.”

In response to the decision, the editors of the three outlets sent a letter to the general prosecutor in which they condemned the discriminatory decision. They also asked for an explanation as to why his office had violated the Press Code, which states that journalists have free access to information. “It is not clear to us by what criterion you excluded journalists from the three major news media from informing the public”, the letter, signed by Beata Balogová (Sme), Peter Bárdy (, and Matúš Kostolný (Denník N), stated. “The argument about lack of space is very poor and we cannot take it seriously.”

The editors call it “incomprehensible” that the prosecutor general’s office ignores the press law, which guarantees free access to information for journalists. “We urge you not to continue a similar selective approach to journalists and not to hide from critical media issues that are irreplaceable for democracy”, the letter concluded. The decision of the general prosecutor to ban the journalists from the conference was also criticized by politicians from several parties, such as Juraj Šeliga of Za Ľudí, Kristián Čekovský of OĽaNO and Ondrej Dostál of Sa.


Slovakia Supreme Court hearing is crucial test in battle…

Slovakia Supreme Court hearing is crucial test in battle against Impunity

On June 15 the Slovak Supreme Court is expected to rule on the appeal brought by prosecutors against last summer’s not guilty verdict in the murder of journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancée, Martina Kušnírová.

On June 15 the Slovak Supreme Court is expected to rule on the appeal brought by prosecutors against last summer’s not guilty verdict in the murder of journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancée, Martina Kušnírová.

The International Press Institute (IPI) with the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF), ARTICLE 19, and the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) as part of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) urge the Supreme Court to carefully and exhaustively examine all available evidence in the case.

IPI Deputy Director Scott Griffen will attend the hearing in Bratislava on behalf of IPI and the MFRR.

Controversial businessman Marian Kočner and a confidante, Alena Zsuzsová, were acquitted last summer of ordering Kuciak’s murder in February 2018. The Specialized Criminal Court in Pezinok, Slovakia, found that there was not enough evidence to rule conclusively that Kočner had ordered the hit.

The ruling was a tremendous setback for the fight against impunity in a case that gripped Slovak society, not least due to Kočner’s links to Slovakia’s political, judicial and security elite. The aftermath of the murder led to the resignation of top political figures, including former Prime Minister Robert Fico.

Three people have already been convicted in the case: gunman Miroslav Marček; getaway driver Tomáš Szabó; and middleman Zoltán Andruskó, who served as a key prosecution witness against Kočner and Zsuzsová. This outcome mirrors a global pattern: while hitmen are sometimes sentenced in journalist murder cases, the masterminds are almost never held to account.

Slovak prosecutors believed they had sufficient circumstantial evidence against Kočner and Zsuzsová to buck that trend. The Specialized Criminal Court disagreed, and the appeals case isfocused in part on whether the judges sufficiently interpreted cryptic messages between Kočner and Zsuzsová that prosecutors say referred to the murder. Around 10 pieces of new evidence have also been introduced, including heart rate monitoring data from Zsuzsová’s phone.

There will be much at stake when the Supreme Court rules on Tuesday. Three journalists have been murdered in the EU since 2017; in addition to Kuciak, Daphne Caruana Galizia was murdered in a car bombing in Malta in 2017, while Greek reporter Giorgos Karaivaz was shot dead earlier this year. In none of the three cases has full justice been achieved, an unacceptable outcome that endangers journalists across Europe.

The Supreme Court can either confirm the Special Criminal Court’s decision or send the case back to be heard again. Regardless of the court’s decision on Tuesday, the MFRR partners underscore that the fight for justice does not end on Tuesday. Slovakia’s institutions cannot rest until the masterminds behind the murder of Ján Kuciak and Martina Kušnírová are behind bars.

Signed by:

  • ARTICLE 19
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
  • European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
  • International Press Institute (IPI)