Slovakian government under fire

First Slovakia's minister of culture and now its Interior Minister Robert Kaliňák have handed in their resignations. The government has been under pressure since the murder of investigative journalist Ján Kuciak two weeks ago. At mass rallies tens of thousands of Slovakians accused their leaders of being openly hostile towards journalists and tainted by corruption. Can Kaliňák's resignation calm the tensions?

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Der Standard (AT) /

Fico's next!

The resignation of Interior Minister Robert Kaliňák won't appease the Slovakians, Der Standard suspects:

“His departure solves none of the problems that came to light in Slovakia after the murder of investigative journalist Ján Kuciac. On the contrary. Explaining why he was stepping down Kaliňák said he didn't want to endanger the country's stability. The calculation here was: if the controversial minister, who in any case couldn't stay in office, leaves, Fico can remain despite the fact that tens of thousands of people are taking to the streets to protest against him. But if the prime minister is hoping that Kaliňák's departure will soothe the people's anger, he's likely to be wrong. Many Slovakians won't be fobbed off with the second resignation of a minister. Kaliňák's boss, who liked to call critical journalists 'anti-Slovakian whores', may well be the next one to go.”

Sme (SK) /

Insight came too late

Beata Balogová, editor-in-chief of Sme, also doesn't believe Kaliňák's resignation can save the situation:

“If the minister had stepped down the day after Kuciak was murdered, Fico and his government would stand a better chance of surviving. But Fico and Kaliňák studied in the school of former prime minister Mečiar, where the admission of moral responsibility is considered a weakness and attacks on critics a strength. By trying to save the minister's skin, Fico and his party Smer only underscored their complete lack of judgement. They underestimated the moral demands of the nation while tens of thousands were shouting that enough was enough.”

Sme (SK) /

Corrupt politicians learning what fear is

Prime Minister Fico has described the protests as an attempt to topple the government. Sme counters:

“Peaceful protests don't constitute a coup. And if people vent their frustration at the lack of a sense of moral responsibility for the murder of a journalist, that doesn't amount to a conspiracy. Robert Fico may see this as a threat but moral decency and civil courage don't pose a threat to anyone. Only those who have behaved corruptly for years need feel afraid. However even they needn't fear for their lives, but only for their posts. Because nothing is as powerful as this mass of people who are reminding their politicians that they are merely the employees of the citizens.”

Denník N (SK) /

Prime Minister not so easily ousted

Prime Minister Fico may be down but he's certainly not out, Dag Daniš comments in Dennik N:

“At the end of the day the political battle between President Kiska and Fico will be won by he who has a majority in parliament. For the moment that's still Fico. He could sacrifice Interior Minister Kaliňák so as to keep the party of the Hungarian minority in government. If he doesn't succeed, he could try to get Marian Kotleba's far-right ĽSNS to tolerate his government. Of course that would be the height of bad taste, but it would work. ... From a purely technical point of view, however, he could remain in power with a reshuffled cabinet. Under his leadership, not Kiska's.”

Új Szó (SK) /

Not even the Soros ploy will help Fico

The fact that Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico is now also using US billionaire George Soros as a scapegoat is just a desperate attempt to save his skin, Új Szó writes:

“In order to divert people's attention Fico is focussing on fuelling tensions and spreading conspiracies. ... It's quite probable that his brilliant political career will now come to an undignified end. ... Apparently he knows that his political downfall is now inevitable. To avoid being called to account he's trying to create chaos and play off as many people as possible against each other. Now he's also dragged Soros into this - clearly another diversionary tactic and no doubt a last-ditch attempt to get his own neck out of the noose.”

Sme (SK) /

Country must change from the ground up

Sme's editor-in-chief Beata Balogová supports Kiska's demands:

“Prime Minister Robert Fico still hasn't got it. All he does is keep repeating that the crime must be resolved. Yes, it must. But that's not his job. Andrej Kiska, by contrast, has done his job and said what journalists have been thinking for a week now. We need a fundamental change - a cabinet reshuffle or new elections. This whole affair shows just how different Kiska and Fico are, both intellectually and politically. Kiska understands that we are dealing with a profound moral issue. ... From Fico's point of view such issues are just a pastime for journalists. The nation is waiting for more politicians than just Kiska to understand that the mental health of our country is at stake.”

Denník N (SK) /

Fico shutting himself away

Dennik N's editor-in-chief Matúš Kostolný finds it incomprehensible that Fico and his followers have not become more involved:

“The last time I saw a mass of people like that on the streets was in 1989. The people are angry and determined - but calm. ... Fico, by contrast, has shut himself away with his cohorts, as if in a bunker. Cut off from reality. They've lost touch with the country they live in. All they care about is themselves. Then Kiska - the man who seemed to have bid farewell to the presidential palace - reappeared. It's good that he's back. ... Ján Kuciak's family and hundreds of others wept at his grave on the weekend. The bells rang. Fico did not hear them.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

Germany not free of blame either

Germany also bears responsibility for the way the mafia has conquered Eastern Europe, comments mafia expert Roberto Saviano in La Repubblica:

“Eastern Europe is a black hole: money-laundering everywhere and infiltrated by the mafia. ... The mafia's strategy is to get its grips on what could be described as the 'German commonwealth' - the Eastern European countries bordering Germany. Although the German government plays a crucial economic role here, it doesn't carry out adequate controls on the capital flows and production chains through which goods are produced in Eastern Europe for German companies, either on its own territory or beyond that. Neither the German laws nor those of the Eastern European republics are anywhere near effective enough to counter the mafia's military and economic power”

Hospodářské noviny (CZ) /

Fico resigning wouldn't solve the problem either

Slovakia's Minister of Culture Marek Madaric, who is also responsible for the media, has resigned stating that he couldn't remain in office after the murder of a journalist. Calls for the resignation of Prime Minister Fico are also growing louder. Hospodářské noviny thinks little of the demands:

“Fico's resignation would leave a huge dent in his party. Until now he's been able to maintain a balance between the various interest groups. His potential successor, Interior Minister Robert Kaliňák, has been so discredited by corruption scandals that it's almost incomprehensible that Fico has kept him in office for so long. And no potential successors are waiting in the wings. If Fico leaves, the popularity of his party Smer-SD will also suffer and drop to the levels of a mid-sized party.”

La Stampa (IT) /

Mafia came with the fall of the Berlin Wall

Before his death Kuciak was working on a story about the activities of the 'Ndrangheta in Slovakia and their ties to top politicians, the website, which Kuciak was working for, has revealed. It's a fact that the 'Ndrangheta is highly successful not just in Italy, La Stampa explains:

“The organisation, which was founded in Calabria in the 19th century, is present on all continents today. If we believe the research institute Demoskopica, its annual turnover amounts to 53 billion euros. ... One of the reasons for this success is its ability to control the international drug trade thanks to its close ties to traffickers from Colombia and Mexico. ... Moreover, the members of the 'Ndrangheta recognised the opportunities offered by the fall of the Berlin Wall. Since the 1990s they have been investing and laundering money in Eastern Europe.”

Dnevnik (SI) /

A dangerous trend

For Dnevnik the murder is proof of a new dangerous trend:

“Fewer and fewer people grasp the importance of free media, and the role of journalists in society is not properly understood. Politicians have started calling media reports 'fake news'. Naturally this type of verbal settling of scores by politicians with the 'fourth power' they so despise is partly responsible for the widespread low opinion of the media. When the incitement comes from the highest echelons, it's not a big step from verbal murder to real crime. ... If society allows journalists to be murdered - literally or figuratively - there is little chance of countering this trend.”

Newsweek Polska (PL) /

They won't silence us

The website belongs to Ringier Axel Springer Slovakia. The chief editors of Ringier Axel Springer Poland have now composed a joint article published by Newsweek Polska and other media:

“These bandits mustn't believe they can silence the journalists. ... This is the first murder of a journalist in Slovakia. In December Daphne Caruana Galizia, who was closing in on the government and its partners from the Azerbaijan gangs, was murdered in a bomb attack in Malta. In 1992 Jarosław Ziętara died in Poznań - probably killed by the gangsters he wanted to write about. In Russia and Ukraine not a year goes by without journalists dying. They all risked their lives so that we could know how things are.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

Political consequences lacking

Murders of journalists like Ján Kuciak in Slovakia or Daphne Caruana Galicia in Malta show that there is a problem with the rule of law in the EU, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung warns:

“International help with investigations such as that offered by the FBI and European authorities in Malta is useful. While such missions can't replace national prosecutors, they can draw additional attention and apply pressure where it counts so that such unacceptable murders of journalists have consequences. ... Ultimately, however, the possibilities are limited, and the experience in Malta after four months is not encouraging: those who pull the strings remain hidden, the story disappeared from the papers once the first wave of indignation died down, and there have been no political consequences whatsoever.” (SK) /

Fico bears part of the blame

The Slovakian head of government Robert Fico has offered a million euros as a reward for tips leading to the capture of the perpetrator. sees the move as lacking in credibility:

“Robert Fico is partly responsible for a climate in which attempts are made to simply kill journalists. When the head of government describes an entire professional group as 'prostitutes' this sends a clear signal that open season has been declared on its members. ... The prime minister won't be able to escape moral responsibility for this.”

Sme (SK) /

Attack on the Slovakian people

The murder of Ján Kuciak has not just shaken the Slovakian media, comments Sme editor-in-chief Beata Balogová:

“In a country where a journalist is murdered the freedom of the word itself is under attack. The aim was not only to silence one person, but to frighten everyone. The murder of a journalist is also an attack on the general public; after all journalists are the eyes, ears and mouths of the people. The politicians of this country must clearly condemn this cowardly act of aggression and send the message that this was not just a murder, but a bloody blow to our democracy.”

Hospodářské noviny (CZ) /

Fascists could benefit

However frightened Slovakian journalists were in the 1990s, no one was actually murdered in the Mečiar era, the Slovakian guest author Milan Žitný points out in Hospodářské noviny:

“If we don't manage to get to the bottom of the murder of Ján Kuciak public distrust of the security forces and the judiciary will only increase. This, in turn, could reinforce demands for 'a firm hand' to finally establish some order. If you want to know what that firm hand could look like, just look at Marian Kotleba's fascists in the Slovakian parliament. Their path to the seat of power could get shorter. Prime Minister Fico, who has promised a high reward for finding the perpetrator, seems to be aware of this risk.”