Reporters of Denník N may face up to one year in prison for revealing the identity of a protected witness – an ex-spy boss, who previously directed the illegal surveillance of one of the journalists.
Slovak Investigative journalist Monika Tódová, and Denník N deputy editor-in-chief Konštantín Čikovský, have been indicted for disclosing classified information. In 2018 the pair wrote a story, in which they described how Peter Tóth, former head of counter-intelligence at the Slovak Intelligence Service, spied on journalists. One of them – Ján Kuciak – was later murdered. Tódová was also among those monitored.
The surveillance was not done by the state – it was ordered by Marián Kočner, a shady figure moving between the worlds of crime, politics, business, and security forces, who is currently on trial for ordering Kuciak’s killing.
Tóth decided to cooperate with investigators when it became apparent that his role in gathering information on journalists prior to the death of Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kušnírová will be discovered.
In their story, Tódová and Čikovský revealed that he is collaborating with police and prosecution as a protected witness. Prior to the publication of the article, Tóth commented on the case on Facebook, where he criticized Kočner. The news of his involvement therefore likely came as no surprise to his former accomplices. Nonetheless, he filed criminal charges, and now, just weeks short of statutory time limits expiring, prosecutors decided to act.
The move comes amid chaos in the country’s security forces. Kuciak’s death in 2018 has led to an effort to act against high-level corruption and cut the close ties between mafia and top politicians. Two former police chiefs, a special prosecutor, the acting head of the intelligence service, and prominent oligarchs are among those who have found themselves in prison. However, recent weeks have seen a reversal of this trend, with four investigators working on these cases imprisoned, and some suspects released.
The journalists from Denník N, an independent newspaper created seven years ago in reaction to the growing role of oligarchs in the media sector, will challenge the indictment. Even if the case moves ahead, it may take months before it comes to court.
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