Investigative journalists awarded for their brave deeds

Seven journalists received the White Crow award for defending the public good. The organisers of For a Decent Slovakia were given a special vote of thanks.

The award-winning journalists The award-winning journalists (Source: SME)

On November 17, seven investigative journalists who have reported about several scandals involving politicians and affiliated entrepreneurs received a collective White Crow award, granted every year to people for defending the public good despite various obstacles.

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Watchdogs the Fair-Play Alliance and Via Iuris praised the work of murdered journalist Ján Kuciak, his close collaborator, Czech journalist Pavla Holcová, and Slovak reporters Xénia Makarová, Zuzana Petková, Monika Tódová, Marek Vagovič and Adam Valček, the Sme daily reported.

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“The White Crow for journalists is the expression of our gratitude and honour, as well as a reference to the irreplaceable value of journalistic work for society, particularly in breaking moments, but also a warning of what journalists have had to face this year,” said Zuzana Wienk, head of the Fair-Play Alliance, as quoted by Sme.

The investigation has proven that many of the journalists who received this award have been scrutinised by controversial businessman Marian Kočner, while the people who murdered Kuciak were planning other killing sprees, she added.

A special thanks to protest organisers

The White Crow council also gave, for the first time, a special vote of thanks to the For a Decent Slovakia initiative. It could not grant an award since some of the organisers of the nation-wide protest gatherings have entered politics. The awards are given only to civilians, Sme wrote.

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Read also: We want a decent Slovakia, people chanted in squares Read more 

However, they wanted to show appreciation for their selfless civilian activism, said head of Via Iuris Milan Šagát.

“At a time when politicians seriously doubted the ability of the people to selflessly unite without ambitions of power, with which various conspiracy media outlets aided them, we need to voice the truth, take notice of and support the true shape of events,” Šagát said, as quoted by Sme. “Democracy will be threatened when we stop believing in good and having the ability to distinguish between facts and lies.”

Who are the laureates?

Ján Kuciak was awarded in memoriam for his exceptional approach to journalism. He was one of a few journalists who, despite the competition in the media sector, wanted the media to cooperate and share information. He was very good at working with open sources, databases and in the international environment. Kuciak was the only Slovak journalist who had exclusive access to the materials from the international Panama Papers scandal, but he called a group of journalists from several media outlets and offered to cooperate with them. He also revealed several scandals concerning Kočner and tax fraud suspect Ladislav Bašternák. Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kušnírová were killed in February 2018.

Read also: We refuse Fico's attacks against journalists Read more 

Adam Valček is a reporter working for the Sme daily, focusing on business and economy. As one of a few journalists, he is working with data and open sources. He has revealed several corruption cases concerning Kočner and tycoon Juraj Široký, and has described the activities of Italian businessman and alleged mafia boss Antonino Vadala.

Xénia Makarová and Zuzana Petková are both former reporters of the Trend weekly. The latter is now leading the Stop Corruption Foundation. They have both faced several threats of criminal prosecution. Together, the two journalists have revealed extensive VAT frauds, also concerning Bašternák.

Monika Tódová is a reporter for the Denník N daily. She, among other things, reported about the testimony of two police officers concerning the abduction of Vietnamese businessman Trinh Xuan Thanh and discovered that the wife of the former head of the National Criminal Agency’s unit was working in a company linked to a businessman listed in the so-called mafia lists and that Special Prosecutor Dušan Kováčik has not submitted a single suit in the cases he has supervised during his time in the post.

Read also: Kuciak receives press freedom prize in memoriam in Berlin Read more 

Marek Vagovič is a reporter for the website, where he worked with Kuciak. He, for example, reported about a recording of a voice similar to the one of Robert Fico, who was talking about dubious money for the Smer party received outside the official bookkeeping and various scandals involving Smer and its sponsors.

Pavla Holcová is a Czech reporter and founder of the Czech Centre for Investigative Journalism. She worked with Kuciak on several cases, including the documents from the Panama Papers. She has also worked on stories about the traces of the Italian mafia in Slovakia and the global drug cartel laundering money via a hotel in the Tatra mountains.

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