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Slovakia's Government In Turmoil After Journalist's Death


The killing of a journalist in a central European country of Slovakia has now led to the collapse of the government there. The journalist was murdered together with his fiancee after reporting on corruption by foreign businessmen in Slovakia. Some of them were alleged to have had links with the country's prime minister. NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson is in the capital, Bratislava, and joins us now. Soraya, I'll start by having you back up and explain who this man was, this young man, this murdered journalist.

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: Well, Rachel, he was 27 years old. His name was Jan Kuciak, and he and his fiancee, Martina Kusnirova, they were at home. And somebody came into their house and shot them both dead at point-blank range in what looked like a hit killing. And so this happened in late February, and the country here was just outraged by this. I mean, it's like the fact that somebody would come into a home and do this was just more than they, you know, could bear. And this particular journalist, he was an investigative journalist who did a lot - looked at a lot of corruption here that was going on, tried to delve into it. He made his name with the Panama Papers, and he actually did a lot of computer-assisted reporting, so he was a well thought of investigative journalist. A rising star is the way he was described to me.

MARTIN: So what in the world had he been working on that made him a target which has now provoked the collapse of the government?

NELSON: His last piece was delving into connections between some people within the government that just resigned and the Italian organized crime, basically. And - but there was also - there were other issues of European funds, EU funds, being misused here. So he had a number of projects going. But that last article, which he hadn't finished, was about this - the links basically between the Slovakian government that just resigned and Italian organized crime.

MARTIN: So - just to be clear, so the government has resigned because they - it has been revealed that they were all corrupt.

NELSON: No. The way that the prime minister, or I should say about to be ex-prime minister, described it was that he's trying to ensure stability because people here have been turning out in the streets in numbers that haven't been seen since the country was formed since back in the Velvet Revolution when Czechoslovakia was still one country rather than Czech and Slovakia. So he said he felt like he had to take this step in order to restore some stability and to avoid early elections, which he said would bring instability.

MARTIN: So what is the upshot of this? I mean, what happens now? It - does - I mean, is it going to bring stability? It sounds very unstable.

NELSON: (Laughter) Well, you know, the government that just resigned said, yes, this is the miracle cure. But the president - he got on the air a short while ago here and said, no, he feels that people are just too upset about what's happened. They feel that this government has not taken responsibility. They keep casting aspersions on the media, which is covering this event on George Soros even, the American philanthropist billionaire who has invested a lot of money in democracy building, and is not taking responsibility for the deaths. So the feeling is that the protests will continue. Another major one is scheduled for tomorrow night.

MARTIN: So there are people out on the streets right now or have been at least.

NELSON: Not right now, but they will be tomorrow. That's the plan anyway. They have a planned protest tomorrow. This just happened with the government today, so they're not out there yet.

MARTIN: NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reporting from the capital of Slovakia for us this morning where the government has collapsed. Thank you so much, Soraya.

NELSON: You're welcome, Rachel.


Special correspondent Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson is based in Berlin. Her reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and read at NPR.org. From 2012 until 2018 Nelson was NPR's bureau chief in Berlin. She won the ICFJ 2017 Excellence in International Reporting Award for her work in Central and Eastern Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and Afghanistan.
Rachel Martin is a host of Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
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