The energy of investigative journalism

In February 2018, a younger Slovak investigative journalist named Jan Kuciak and his girlfriend, Martina Kusnirova, had been brutally murdered of their home in Velka Maca, east of Slovakia’s capital, Bratislava.

Before being gunned down, Kuciak had printed a number of articles that targeted on investigating tax fraud of a number of businessmen with connections to top-level Slovak politicians. A former soldier, Miroslav Marcek, pled responsible to capturing Kuciak and Kusnirova and was sentenced to 23 years in jail in April 2020. Marcek claimed he was employed by an affiliate of an allegedly mafia-linked native tycoon to kill each Kuciak and Kusnirova.

The couple’s deaths prompted main road protests unseen because the 1989 anti-Communist Velvet Revolution and a political disaster that led to the collapse of Slovakia’s authorities.

New Europe spoke with investigative journalist Pavla Holcova following a commemoration for Kuciak and Kusnirova that was organized by Italy’s University of Padova. The ceremony highlighted their contribution to the protection and development of human rights and the rule of legislation.

Holcova is an investigative journalist and media founder from the Czech Republic who works throughout borders to reveal crime and corruption on the highest ranges of presidency. Her investigation into the brutal homicide of her colleagues helped unmask the perpetrators and contributed to the downfall of the previous Slovak authorities of Robert Fico.

For her fearless reporting, Holcova was named a 2021 Knight International Journalism Award winner, introduced by the International Center for Journalists to honor excellent reporters who have an effect on the career.

New Europe (NE): Is it nonetheless harmful to be an investigative journalist in Slovakia or has one thing modified after the (Kuciak and Kusnirova) murders?

Pavla Holcova (PH): The message after the murders was clear – by killing a journalist you’re not capable of kill the story that they had been engaged on. I believe folks will assume first earlier than killing one other journalist. In Slovakia, nowadays, there’s a revolution occurring that’s bringing new dangers to society. I can’t make sure of what is going to come subsequent, particularly for investigative journalists. It’s actually tough to evaluate if it’s a greater, safer place for journalism now or not.

NE: Many folks have been arrested because of your investigative studies. So you’re getting some outcomes, proper?

PH: We are a part of a community of investigative journalists that known as The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP). So far, nearly $eight million has been returned to the state funds and over 500 folks have been indicted or sentenced. So, sure, investigative journalism has had an actual and tangible influence. There have been many research which are truly saying that individuals take into account investigative journalism to be the easiest way to combat corruption.

NE: You had been following this case fairly carefully. Do you assume that we all know every thing concerning the Kuciak-Kusnirova case, or is there nonetheless rather more to be discovered within the shadows?

PH: I imagine that the investigators, for instance from Europol, actually did a stellar job in amassing and analyzing the info. They carried out the investigation despite the fact that they had been beneath huge strain from Slovakia’s prime leaders. That mentioned, I nonetheless imagine that we’ll by no means know the complete story. We by no means do. We should still uncover new leads, new particulars, however we’ll by no means know the entire story.

NE: Are the actions of the Italian mafia in Slovakia and the Czech Republic severe, as a result of in different nations, like Germany, we predict it’s?

PH: I would like to spotlight that the Italian Mafia had nothing to do with the murders of Kuciak and Kusnirova. It was a Slovak subject. A Slovak businessman ordered the killings. But nonetheless, the Italian Mafia, particularly the ‘Ndrangheta (the Calabrian mafia) is current in each Slovakia and the Czech Republic. They are lively in subsidies fraud. They make some huge cash on subsidies, which they make investments into actual property. They are current however not as seen as, for instance, in Germany.

NE: From the political standpoint, do you assume there was a change after the general public’s response and the type of ‘revolution’ that adopted?

PH: There was an enormous change and an enormous hope as a result of the system collapsed after greater than 12 years of being unshakable. That was due to the gravity of the case. It prompted it (the federal government) to break down inside a few weeks. The change was very seen and tangible. But, it’s nonetheless ongoing. We should not there but. We are nonetheless in some type of consolidation section of society. I’m afraid individuals are dropping persistence with the brand new modifications. Right now the system and the brand new authorities are in a rush, partly due to the pandemic state of affairs, however partly as a result of they’re don’t have any expertise at being in cost.

NE: How is it essential so that you can keep up a correspondence with different journalists from throughout Europe?

PH: Because I’m very targeted on worldwide investigations, for me it’s important to be in contact with different journalists in different nations. Quite typically a very powerful details about what’s occurring in your home nation can’t truly be discovered there. Instead, you have to begin some other place. We keep in touch by way of the OCCRP Network, together with in Italy, the place we now have contacts. So, there’s an European community. We even have a community outdoors of Europe, OCCRP is now world – in South America, Southeast Asia, Australia, and within the US.

NE: What can Europe do to assist investigative journalists? What do you wish to ask Europe for?

PH: What is actually essential for us as a journalists, as a result of we very often really feel that we’re on the entrance line and offering data to the general public, is that we now have some backup. We additionally want cash to do investigations as a result of we now have a really, very restricted pool of individuals and establishments that may be a monetary useful resource. We want cash to assist our core operations. Maybe a European program could be a good suggestion, as a result of we are able to’t take cash from our governments, however we are able to ask the European Union.

NE: Security can also be essential?

PH: Yes, for us, it’s actually essential that somebody retains a watch on us and our circumstances, particularly so we don’t really feel left alone and forgotten. For us, as journalists, we now have to dedicate rather more of our time to elucidate what we’d like, together with speaking to European leaders frequently. This could possibly be seen as partaking in politics or having an agenda, which is what we are able to’t do. That’s why we now have to have devoted individuals who do it for us.

NE: What are you able to say to new journalists that want to begin their careers? It’s essential to have new voices on the market.

PH: It’s essential to have younger journalists concerned. I imply, in any other case, I can’t think about that I might ever get a greater job. Even if it brings dangers and disappointment, I believe it’s essential as a result of because of our job, we are able to sleep peacefully at evening as a result of we all know we don’t quit and we wish to carry on preventing.

NE: What is the easiest way to work with out risking an excessive amount of?

PH: The finest suggestion I can provide to journalists who need to achieve this aim with out risking an excessive amount of is to consider cooperation. You know, generally journalists imagine that they should hold all the knowledge to themselves. If they share this type of data, in the event that they cooperate with journalists from different media, they’re secure as a result of it’s potential to kill a journalist, nevertheless it’s not potential to kill a community of journalists.

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