Bratislava/Prague, Feb 26 (CTK) – Slovak politicians, including Prime Minister Robert Fico, as well as his Czech counterpart Andrej Babis condemned the murder of Slovak investigative reporter Jan Kuciak and his girlfriend on Monday.

The murder was probably motivated by Kuciak’s investigative work, according to the police.

“If it turned out that the death of the investigative reporter was connected with his journalistic work, it would be an unprecedented attack on the press freedom and democracy in Slovakia,” Fico (Smer-Social Democracy) wrote in his press release.

He added that the murder of two young people and any similar cases must be investigated as soon as possible and the perpetrators must be revealed and punished.

Slovak-born Babis (ANO) writes on a social network that he condemns violence against journalists.

“If confirmed that this is connected with his work, it will be mad. It has never crossed my mind that something like that may happen in Slovakia in 2018,” Babis wrote on Kuciak’s murder.

“The cold-blooded murder of the young people is an atrocious deed that must be punished. We must find those who have committed it urgently and provide safety for all journalists,” Slovak President Andrej Kiska wrote in a press release.

“It is beyond understanding that we can witness such crimes at present. I believe that the police will act without any delay and give the perpetrator no chance,” Slovak parliament head Andrej Danko wrote.

The opposition representatives have also condemned the reporter’s murder.

“We are living in the mafia world,” Igor Matovic, head of the opposition movement Ordinary People and Independent Personalities, wrote on social networks.

Lucia Duris Nicholsonova, parliament deputy chairwoman for the strongest opposition party Freedom and Solidarity, challenged the police work in sensitive cases. She also reminded of the words by Fico who repeatedly criticised journalists and called them “dirty anti-Slovak prostitutes.”

Out of other Czech politicians reacting to the Slovak tragedy, Civic Democrat (ODS) chairman Petr Fiala said he hopes that the murderers will be caught soon.

“I am sure that the brutal violence will not discourage journalists from their work either in Slovakia or elsewhere in the world,” Fiala said.

Czech Social Democrat (CSSD) leader Jan Hamacek said such crimes mean direct attacks on free society. “Journalists are rightfully viewed as watchdogs of democracy. I believe that the culprits will be caught and punished,” Hamacek wrote.

Czech TOP 09 chairman Miroslav Kalousek said the monstrous crime must be punished, as Europe must not be a place where one pays with his life for freedom of speech.

Czech Foreign Minister Martin Stropnicky (ANO) said he believes that the speculation that Kuciak’s murdered was linked to his profession will not be confirmed. “I consider attacks on journalists absolutely unacceptable,” he said.

The Czech Presidential Office has refused to comment on the Slovak case.

“It is extraordinarily disgusting that some Czech politicians and activists misuse the horrible murder of a journalist in Slovakia to pursue their own political struggle and make attacks,” President Milos Zeman’s spokesman Jiri Ovcacek said.

The major Slovak media outlets issued a joint statement, in which they called the reporter’s murder a serious indicator showing that crime is turning against one of the most important pillars of freedom, the freedom of speech and the citizens’ right to control those in power and those violating laws.

The editors-in-chief of a dozen printed and and electronic media called on the state to take the necessary steps not only to track down the criminals, but also to create conditions for journalists’ safe work.

In the Czech Republic, about 300 journalists from both public and commercial media have signed a statement condemning the murder of Kuciak and his girlfriend as “a barbarous attack against the freedom of speech, which, in a democracy, cannot be viewed as a silently accepted professional risk.”

The murder has also been condemned by the Czech journalists’ syndicate, and shock at it has been voiced by the Czech umbrella trade union CMKOS.

“We are remembering the silencing of people over their opinions on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the February [1948 Communist] coup [in Czechoslovakia]. Now that we consider such practices gone, a crime has occurred that warns us how fragile our democracy is,” CMKOS leader Josef Stredula wrote in a press release.

Hundreds of people honoured Kuciak by lighting candles in Prague’s Wenceslas Square and Brno’s Komensky Square in the evening.

“All of us remember that our president [Zeman] jokingly said during his visit to the Kremlin last year that there are too many journalists and that they should be eliminated. It begins with hate words of presidents and their lackeys and ends with murders of bothersome people,” Martin Uhlir, who organised the commemorative event in Prague, told CTK.