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Investigative journalist was murdered in 2018 aged 27, following his reporting of corruption amongst leading businessmen in Slovakia, and their links with politicians and organised crime.

Ján Kuciak named as the recipient of the Legatum Institute's Courage in Journalism Award

Ján Kuciak was an investigative journalist for the Slovakian news website Aktuality.sk. His investigations included looking at allegations of tax fraud associated with individuals close to the then-ruling Smur Party, and links with Italian organised crime networks. On the 25th of February 2018, he was found shot dead in his home alongside his fiancée Martina Kušnírová. After his death, prosecutors stated they believed Kuciak was killed to stop his investigation.

 

One of the reasons Kuciak was chosen to receive the Courage in Journalism Award was because of the impact his death has had on Slovakia. In the weeks and month following his death, Slovakia saw mass protests which contributed to the resignation of then-Prime Minister Robert Fico. A new anti-corruption movement has swept the country which contributed to the recent election of Slovakia’s first female president, Zuzana Caputova, who stood on an anti-corruption, pro-press freedom platform.

The Courage in Journalism Award was created to highlight the dangers faced by journalists around the world. The Award is presented posthumously to a journalist whose death in the past year as a direct result of their work. The Legatum Institute founded this award in 2017 following the death of Daphne Caruana Galizia, the widely-respected Maltese journalist who was killed by a car bomb. Following Daphne’s death, and in discussion with the Caruana Galizia family, we decided to create this award to honour her legacy and to shine a light on the very real dangers facing journalists working in many countries around the world.

Commenting on the Award, Nathan Gamester of the Legatum Institute said:

“Across the world today, media freedoms are under threat. In around two-thirds of the 149 countries included in the Legatum Prosperity Index, media freedom is in decline. This should be a cause for concern for all of us – journalists play a vital role in reporting the news and holding governments to account. In too many parts of the world, this duty comes at a price.

“We decided to make this a posthumous award, to recognise a journalist whose life – and death – had made a significant impact. Sadly, the need for courageous journalism seems greater today than ever before. We owe a huge debt to the men and women who paid the ultimate price to ensure their readers, viewers and listeners received fair and truthful accounts of the facts.”

The Judges

Lord Alton speech

Speaking in the House of Lords, Lord Alton of Liverpool  who attended the event, referenced the Institute’s Courage in Journalism Award during a debate on Attacks on Journalists.

An extract from the speech can be found below:

In 2018, according to the Foreign Office, 99 journalists were killed, 348 detained and 60 taken hostage by non-state groups. Although there are conflicting figures, all agree that 2018 was the deadliest year ever for journalists.

All of us here are only too well aware of the lethal dangers in countries such as North Korea and Pakistan. I declare an interest as co-chair of two relevant All-Party Parliamentary Groups. 

However, this is an issue in Europe as well. 

In October 2017, Daphne Caruana Galizia, Malta’s best-known investigative journalist, was killed when a car bomb exploded after she had reported on government corruption, nepotism, money laundering and organised crime.​

The 2019 Legatum award was given in memory of a brave young man, Ján Kuciak from Slovakia. He was just 27 when he was murdered, along with his fiancée, following an investigation in which he linked the Italian mafia to the City of London and Slovakian senior government advisors. His reporting led to the fall of the Slovakian Government and rallied many in the nation to get behind press freedom.