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Slovak journalist Jan Kuciak likely killed for story on corruption

Jan Kuciak, the Slovak journalist found dead in his home Sunday after being shot, was working on a story about corruption and alleged mafia links to Slovakia’s government when he was killed.

In a 3,500-word investigative report published Wednesday by Aktuality.SK, where Kuciak worked, he described the relationships between affiliates of an Italian organized-crime family and members of Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico’s government.

Kuciak uncovered links between Viliam Jasan, the secretary of the state security council, and a man affiliated with ‘Ndrangheta, an Italian mafia syndicate with business dealings in Slovakia. His reporting also questioned what led Fico to hire Maria Troskova, a former topless model and Miss Universe contestant, as an assistant despite a lack of political experience.

The article abruptly ends with this note: “The conclusion of the article is missing as the author was not able to finish it. In the memory of Ján Kuciak, our colleague and great journalist.”

Slovakian police believe the killings of Kuciak and his fiancee, Martina Kusnirov, were related to his reporting on corruption. Their deaths have plunged Slovakia into a state of turmoil, with protests planned and several officials resigning from their posts. Troskova and Jasan both stepped down, issuing a joint statement addressing the speculation that they may have been involved in the murder. “Combining our names with this nasty act (the murder of a journalist) by some politicians or the media is absolutely over the line,” they said.

On Wednesday, Slovakia’s minister of culture also resigned, apparently in solidarity with media workers and free speech. “The ministry of culture is closest to the media. After what has happened, I cannot imagine just sitting quietly in the minister’s chair,” said Marek Madaric during a news conference announcing his resignation. “As culture minister, I cannot identify with the fact that a journalist was killed during my tenure.”

Fico appeared at a news conference on Tuesday in Slovakia’s capital, Bratislava, where 1 million euros were laid out on a table next to his podium. The money was being offered as a reward to anyone providing information that leads to the killer’s capture. Fico’s political opponents dismissed it as a stunt designed to divert attention from the allegations of corruption detailed in Kuciak’s reporting.

But Fico shot back. “You are connecting innocent people with double murder. That is over the line,” he said.

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