Who Is Jan Kuciak? Journalist Killed in Slovakia, Potentially in Retaliation for Investigative Work

Journalist Ján Kuciak and his partner, Martina Kusnirova, were killed in Slovakia over the weekend, according to multiple reports. The killing was "most likely related to the journalist's investigative work," police said, according to BBC News.

Kuciak, 27, reported on fraud and tax evasion in Slovakia and had received death threats in the past, according to The Washington Post. The journalist's colleagues were shaken by the killing and showed resolve in the wake of the tragedy.

"We are shocked and terrified by news that Ján Kuciak and his fiancée were probably victims of a vicious execution," Ringier Axel Springer, the publisher for which Kuciak worked, told The Washington Post in a statement. "If this crime was an attempt to discourage an independent publisher such as Ringier Axel Springer not to pursue revelations about breaking the law, we will use this occasion for further strengthening of our journalistic responsibility."

 

Prime Minister Robert Fico said that should the killing be deemed to have been in retaliation to Kuciak's work, it would be an "unprecedented attack on freedom of speech and democracy in Slovakia," according to the BBC. 

Kuciak had worked for the publication Aktuality.sk for three years, according to German publisher Deutsche Welle. The outlet reported that the couple was found in their home having suffered gunshot wounds after Kusnirova's mother reported that she hadn't heard from her daughter. 

"We have to find those who did it as soon as possible and ensure the safety of all journalists," President Andrej Kiska said, via Deutsche Welle. 

Slovakia is generally considered a country that promotes press freedom. It ranked 17th in the 2017 Reporters Without Border World Press Freedom Index. For context, the United States ranked 43rd

"This killing is a grim reminder that when journalists are threatened because of their work, the threats must be taken seriously," Robert Mahoney, deputy executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, said in a statement

Jan Kuciak Policemen stand guard at the crime scene where Slovak investigative journalist Ján Kuciak and his girlfriend, Marina Kusnirova, were murdered in Velka Maca, Slovakia, on February 26. Vladimir Simicek/AFP/Getty Images