Ján And Daphne: How Slovakia And Malta Handled The Journalist Murders That Shook Their Nations
Two journalists murdered in the last year, two national investigations
The murders of Ján Kuciak and Daphne Caruana Galizia, two European investigative journalists, shocked supporters of the free press, and sent a dark message to investigative reporters throughout the continent, and indeed the world.
Kuciak, a Slovakian journalist, was shot dead in February 2018, along with his girlfriend. He was best known for investigating tax fraud by elite businessmen and politicians.
Both Malta and Slovakia immediately proceeded with formal investigations into the two murders, but seeing the Maltese and Slovakian investigations side by side shows the differences and the similarities, between the two investigations.
1. Both countries' governments offered €1 million in rewards to anyone coming forward with information relating to the murder
And both rewards were offered within days of the murder.
2. There were a number of Slovakian resignations in the aftermath of Kuciak's death, including the Prime Minister
The Culture Minister resigned within days, saying: "Plainly said, I cannot as Culture Minister put up with a journalist being murdered during my tenure."
Two other Slovak officials who worked in the office of then-Prime Minister Robert Fico - national security council secretary Viliam Jasan and Prime Minister's aid Maria Troskova - who were named in an article published posthumously by Kuciak resigned as well; they said they wanted to resign "pending the outcome of the investigation into his murder."
In Malta, there were no resignations.
Indeed, a police officer who was found to write "what goes around comes around, demel (manure)" on the day of Caruana Galizia's murder is still on the police force.
PICTURED: (L) Former Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico and (R) Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat
3. Kuciak's murder cost €70,000, while it is still unknown how much Caruana Galizia's cost
Kuciak’s murder allegedly cost €70,000; €50,000 plus €20,000 as debt remission.
It is unknown how much Caruana Galizia's assassination cost - however, Maria Efimova, the ex-Pilatus Bank employee, said it cost €100,000. This number has never been verified.
4. Slovakian officials have found the person who ordered the hit on Kuciak
Slovakian police have kept four suspects in custody - Alena Zs, who ordered the hit, ex-police officer Tomáš Sz. who was the hitman, Miroslav M. who was the driver and Zoltán A. who acted as the go-between.
However, police have speculated that there is a good chance the mastermind behind the hit is still on the loose.
In Malta, the person who ordered Daphne Caruana Galizia's killing has still not been found.
5. All three Maltese suspects have pleaded not guilty to the charge, and all but one Slovakian suspect have appealed the ruling against them
The four Slovakian suspects were taken into custody on the 30th of September, on orders of the Specialised Criminal Court. Zoltan A., who is cooperating with the police, is the one person who is fighting charges against him. Their case will now be heard by the Supreme Court.
In Malta, the three suspects - brothers George and Alfred Degiorgio and Vince Muscat - have pleaded not guilty as well.
6. Many personal items were confiscated as part of the investigation
NAKA, the Slovakian criminal agency, have seized everything from cars, arms, and a mobile phone used by the perpetrators in the search for the mastermind.
In Malta, in separate proceedings, Magistrate Yana Micallef Stafrace ordered the seizure of all the money and property of the accused. This was part of a separate case where the Degiorgio brothers stand accused of money laundering.
7. The two arrests were both videotaped in dramatic fashion
8. International media has been condemnatory towards Malta's investigations, but have praised Slovakia's
Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire had this to say about the Slovakian investigation:
“We welcome this breakthrough in the Slovak police investigation into the deaths of Ján Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kušnírová seven months after their murder. The prosecutor recognised that these arrests were sped up because of the constant pressure from civil society. We ask that the investigation be pursued to the end in order to determine the motive for the murder and to identify any other persons involved in the chain of command.”
Reporters Without Borders had this to say about the Maltese investigation:
"Reporters Without Borders regrets that Anthony Vella, the magistrate in charge of the investigation into journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder in Malta, is to be removed from the case because of an unrequested promotion. RSF’s fears this will delay progress in the investigation. The promotion of Anthony Vella, a magistrate who was determined to pursue this enquiry until the end, comes at the worse possible time for the case and threatens to delay the investigation into Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder even more. As the authorities are supposed to provide all the resources needed to facilitate the proceedings, this promotion can only cast doubt on their real intentions.” - June 2nd
“We deplore the fact that the government’s response to investigative reporting and to legitimate requests by the family of the murdered journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia has been to launch calls for a demonstration.” - April 28th
Reporters Without Borders also demoted Malta 18 places in its World Press Freedom Index for 2018, the largest drop registered by any country.
9. The real masterminds behind either assassination have yet to be found
Though the Slovak police chief said it was likely that Kuciak was killed for his investigative work, the exact reason for his murder - and indeed, who ordered it - have yet to be determined.
Unfortunately, one year on from the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, the exact same can be said.