RKS Film: “The Killing of a Journalist”: A Filthy Stinking and Deadly Web of Slovakian Corruption (Toronto Hot Docs 2022)

“The Killing of a Journalist” is a documentary chronicling the 2018 murder of investigative journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancé Martina Kašnírová in Slovakia. Kuciak was in the midst of preparing an investigative report on corruption in Slovakia focusing on VAT and tax fraud centering on Slovakian Mafiaosa Marían Kocner a.k.a. “prominent businessman”. Kocner was knee deep in corruption but miraculously was never convicted nor charged with any offences. Not so much of a miracle of God but of blackmail and bribery.

The crime scene was a bloody mess and the head of police stated Slovakia was not a Mafia state despite a pack of reporters thinking otherwise. Slovakians, infuriated with the murders and rife corruption, exploded into the streets protesting and demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Robert Fico who fought back claiming the demonstrators were trying to destabilize the state. It so happened Fico had somewhat embarrassed himself by hiring Alena Zsuzsová, a topless model with connections to the Italian Mafia as his aide. 11 days after the murders the President of Slovakia expressed his dismay with the evils gnawing away at the state and publicly distanced himself from Prime Minister Fico. The Minister of the Interior resigned followed by Fico but the head of the police says he would not resign and “would fight to the end”. The end came 55 days later when he resigned.

A massive investigation by the police reviewing CCTV camera footage and thousands of text messages uncovers the murderers one of whom spills his guts naming accomplices and brokers of the murder fingering Zsuzsová as the person ordering the hit as directed by Kocner. Text messages between Kocner and Zsuzsová appear to substantiate that. An anonymous deep throat gives access to police investigation results to a team of investigative journalists who uncover how pervasive and deep the corruption was. The Slovakian police leadership was the main arm of the Mafia and politicians, judges and prosecutors were in Kocner’s hands as they were put in “compromising situations” by Zsuzsová. And there is taped conversation between Kuciak and Kocner where Kocner stated he would pay “special attention” to Kuciak and his family.

The end result is that Kocner and Zsuzsová were found not guilty of the murders however a higher court has overturned that verdict and ordered a retrial which started in February 2022. Kocner did receive a 19-year sentence for financial fraud and Zsuzsová 21 years for arranging the assassination of a Slovak mayor.

The killings of journalists like Kuciak are nothing new as we have seen in Russia, El Salvador and Turkey just to name a few guilty countries. This documentary is a well documented example of how corruption if unchecked can become particularly violent when the judiciary and police are in the pockets of the criminals where can there be no justice unless the population can mobilize and topple the pyramid of corruption.

The director of the documentary is Matt Sarnecki who treats us to an example of how corruption made Slovakia a failed state. It is where the unbelievable becomes reality.

“The Killing of a Journalist” is in theatre on 5May and is streaming at Hot Docs at Home starting May 2 for 5 days but is geoblocked to Canada.

RKS Film Rating 92/100.

Published by Robert K Stephen (CSW)

Robert K Stephen writes about food and drink, travel, and lifestyle issues. He is one of the few non-national writers to be certified as a wine specialist by the Society of Wine Educators, in Washington, DC. Robert was the first associate member of the Wine Writers’ Circle of Canada. He also holds a Mindfulness Certification from the University of Leiden and the University of Toronto. Be it Spanish cured meat, dried fruit, BBQ, or recycled bamboo place mats, Robert endeavours to escape the mundane, which is why he has established this publication. His motto is, "Have Story, Will Write."

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