The power of investigative journalism

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

Earlier than being gunned down, Kuciak had revealed 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 guilty to capturing Kuciak and Kusnirova and was sentenced to 23 years in jail in April 2020. Marcek claimed he was hired by an affiliate of an allegedly mafia-linked local tycoon to kill both Kuciak and Kusnirova.

The couple’s deaths prompted major road protests unseen because the 1989 anti-Communist Velvet Revolution and a political crisis 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 College of Padova. The ceremony highlighted their contribution to the protection and advancement of human rights and the rule of regulation.

Holcova is an investigative journalist and media founder from the Czech Republic who works throughout borders to show crime and corruption at 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 Middle for Journalists to honor excellent reporters who have an effect on the career.

New Europe (NE): Is it still dangerous to be an investigative journalist in Slovakia or has something 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 have been engaged on. I feel individuals will assume first before killing another journalist. In Slovakia, lately, there’s a revolution happening that’s bringing new dangers to society. I can’t be certain of what is going to come subsequent, especially for investigative journalists. It’s really troublesome to assess if it’s a better, safer place for journalism now or not.

NE: Many individuals have been arrested because of your investigative reviews. So you're getting some results, right?

PH: We are a part of a network of investigative journalists that is known as The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Venture (OCCRP). Thus far, almost $8 million has been returned to the state finances and over 500 individuals have been indicted or sentenced. So, sure, investigative journalism has had an actual and tangible impression. There have been many research which are truly saying that folks contemplate investigative journalism to be one of the simplest ways to battle corruption.

NE: You have been following this case quite intently. Do you assume that we know the whole lot concerning the Kuciak-Kusnirova case, or is there still rather more to be found within the shadows?

PH: I consider that the investigators, for instance from Europol, actually did a stellar job in accumulating and analyzing the info. They carried out the investigation despite the fact that they have been beneath large strain from Slovakia’s prime leaders. That stated, I still consider that we’ll by no means know the complete story. We never do. We should uncover new leads, new particulars, but we'll never know the entire story.

NE: Are the actions of the Italian mafia in Slovakia and the Czech Republic critical, because in different nations, like Germany, we expect it's?

PH: I want to spotlight that the Italian Mafia had nothing to do with the murders of Kuciak and Kusnirova. It was a Slovak challenge. A Slovak businessman ordered the killings. However still, the Italian Mafia, especially the ‘Ndrangheta (the Calabrian mafia) is present in each Slovakia and the Czech Republic. They are lively in subsidies fraud. They make some huge cash on subsidies, which they invest into real property. They are present but not as visible as, for example, in Germany.

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

PH: There was a huge change and a huge hope because the system collapsed after more than 12 years of being unshakable. That was because of the gravity of the case. It induced it (the government) to collapse inside a few weeks. The change was very visible and tangible. However, it’s nonetheless ongoing. We aren't there yet. We're nonetheless in some type of consolidation part of society. I’m afraid individuals are dropping endurance with the brand new modifications. Right now the system and the new government are in a rush, partly due to the pandemic state of affairs, but partly because they are haven't any expertise at being in cost.

NE: How is it necessary for you to keep in touch with different journalists from throughout Europe?

PH: Because I’m very targeted on international investigations, for me it’s essential to be in contact with other journalists in different nations. Quite often an important information about what’s occurring in your home country can’t truly be discovered there. As an alternative, you should begin some other place. We keep in touch via the OCCRP Community, together with in Italy, where we've got contacts. So, there's an European community. We even have a network outdoors of Europe, OCCRP is now international – in South America, Southeast Asia, Australia, and in the US.

NE: What can Europe do to help investigative journalists? What do you need to ask Europe for?

PH: What is actually essential for us as a journalists, because we very often really feel that we are on the front line and providing info to the general public, is that we now have some backup. We additionally want cash to do investigations because we've got a really, very limited pool of people and establishments that can be a monetary resource. We'd like cash to help our core operations. Perhaps a European program can be a good idea, as a result of we will’t take cash from our governments, but we will ask the European Union.

NE: Security can also be necessary?

PH: Sure, for us, it’s really necessary that somebody retains an eye fixed on us and our instances, especially so we don’t really feel left alone and forgotten. For us, as journalists, we've to dedicate far more of our time to elucidate what we'd like, including talking to European leaders regularly. This might be seen as partaking in politics or having an agenda, which is what we will’t do. That’s why we've to have devoted people who do it for us.

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

PH: It’s necessary to have young journalists concerned. I imply, otherwise, I can’t imagine that I might ever get a greater job. Even if it brings dangers and unhappiness, I feel it’s necessary because because of our job, we will sleep peacefully at night time because we know we don’t hand over and we need to carry on preventing.

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

PH: The perfect suggestion I may give to journalists who need to achieve this aim with out risking too much is to consider cooperation. You understand, typically journalists consider that they need to maintain all the knowledge to themselves. If they share this type of info, if they cooperate with journalists from other media, they're protected as a result of it is potential to kill a journalist, nevertheless it’s not attainable to kill a community of journalists.

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