Berlin, May 19, 2023 —The Committee to Protect Journalists has called for Slovak authorities to continue seeking justice for the 2018 murder of Slovak journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancée, Martina Kušnírová, following Friday’s decision by a criminal court to acquit businessperson Marián Kočner, the suspected mastermind of the killing. The court convicted Alena Zsuzsová, an associate of Kočner, and sentenced her to 25 years in prison.
“We are deeply disappointed that the long judicial process and retrial of suspects in journalist Ján Kuciak’s murder has resulted in no mastermind being convicted for his killing,” said Attila Mong, CPJ’s Europe representative. “While the conviction of Marián Kočner’s associate is an important step in ending impunity, Slovak authorities should continue to work toward complete justice by pursuing the prosecution of all those who orchestrated this murder.”
In September 2020, the Specialized Criminal Court acquitted both Kočner and Zsuzsová on grounds of lack of evidence, but that verdict was overturned by the Supreme Court, resulting in a retrial.
That retrial again acquitted Kočner on charges he conspired to murder Kuciak, but convicted Zsuzsová of ordering and planning the murder. The verdict is subject to appeal. Both Kočner and Zsuzsová are serving prison sentences on other charges.
Kuciak, an investigative reporter looking into corruption, was the first journalist killed for his work in Slovakia, according to CPJ research. A recent CPJ report noted that his murder, along with that of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, played a key role in European Union initiatives to improve protection for European journalists.
Also on Friday, CPJ joined a statement with seven other press freedom and human rights groups condemning the verdict.