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Watchdog warns EU leaders ‘weakening’ journalists after murder

Jan Kuciak was found shot dead alongside his fiancee Martina Kusnirova on Sunday

Bratislava, Slovakia | AFP | A global media watchdog on Friday warned EU leaders against undermining the security of journalists in the wake of the murder of a Slovak investigative reporter gunned down in his home.

Jan Kuciak, who had been probing alleged high-level political corruption in Slovakia linked to the Italian mafia, was found shot dead alongside his fiancee Martina Kusnirova on Sunday.

His death came just months after journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was killed in a car bombing in Malta after exposing crime and corruption on the Mediterranean island.

Investigators in both murders are probing links to organised crime syndicates, but Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said a number of EU leaders could also be endangering members of the media through public slurs.

Some European politicians, including government leaders, have sustained and even created an “appalling climate for journalists”, Christophe Deloire, RSF secretary-general told AFP after talks with Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico in Bratislava.

“European leaders have a responsibility to defend journalism and not to weaken it,” he added.

– ‘Dangerous insults’ –

Deloire also said he asked Fico, a leftist who does not shy away from using populist rhetoric, to “clearly express his regrets” for having publicly insulted journalists.

“Insulting journalists, denials of the legitimacy of journalism by high-level politicians are dangerous to journalists,” he added.

Fico’s office later issued a statement saying that there was “no call on the PM to apologise to journalists”, denying Deloire’s claim.

Contacted by AFP, Harlem Desir, the Freedom of the Media representative at the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, said he “can confirm” that Deloire had called on Fico to apologise to journalists.

Desir, who met Fico along side Deloire earlier Friday in Bratislava, also insisted that the “masterminds behind this crime” must be brought to justice.

“We cannot accept crimes against investigative journalists to become the new normality in Europe.”

Fico once told journalists they were “dirty, anti-Slovak whores” and used terms like “plain, silly hyenas” and “slimy snakes” to describe the media.

But in the wake of Kuciak’s killing, Fico has vowed his government would “protect freedom of speech and the safety of journalists”.

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