March 15, 2018
Photo: Protesters in Slovakia demand justice over the assassination of investigative journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancée. Joe Klamar. AFP.
Two weeks ago, an investigative journalist was murdered in an incident that police have linked to his work. Jan Kuciak and his fiancée were at home when an attacker shot and killed them over information that he exposed regarding tax evasion by prominent businessmen in the country. Threats had been made against him in the past, and police reports had been filed, but his death is nonetheless a huge shock.
Across Slovakia, this shock sparked a crisis. In the largest Slovak movement since the Velvet Revolution, tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets, opposing not only the nation’s rampant corruption troubles, but also the politicians that allow them to go on. Robert Kalinak, who had been serving as Interior Minister, stepped down earlier this week as the people’s voices became too loud to ignore. They are calling now for the resignation of Prime Minister Robert Fico.
Fico is currently serving his third term in office, having been in power now for more than a decade. In that time, the people of Slovakia feel that he has done far too little to combat corruption or cronyism, making the murder of Kuciak the final straw. The people are no longer willing to tolerate a system so broken that it cannot even protect those individuals trying to achieve justice.
In a too-rare case of people power movements, it seems that these protestors may really achieve this turnaround, and soon. Fico has agreed to step down from his role as prime minister. The move just needs approval from the nation’s president before becoming official. Even so, it demonstrates a degree of responsiveness and an emphasis on resolution that does imbue some hope in the nation.
Nevertheless, further demonstrations are planned for Friday in Bratislava. Nobody has yet been charged with the murder of Kuciak and his fiancée, meaning that for the time being, justice is still a long way from being reached. Not trusting the government to carry out this process, another dominant call by protesters has been for the intervention of Europol in the investigation. Even with the prospect of a promising future taking shape, true freedom in Slovakia will not be complete unless democratic rights are defended. The tens of thousands of people, emboldened and taking to the streets, are not going to stop short in their demands for justice.