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Slovak PM offers €1m cash reward in appeal over journalist's murder

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Slovak PM offers €1m cash reward in appeal over journalist's murder

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Slovakian PM Robert Fico has issued a formal appeal for information following the murder of a Slovak journalist and his girlfriend.

He offered a one million euro reward for anyone willing to come forward and posed next to bundles of cash during the press conference on Tuesday (February 27).

It comes as the country has faced intense international media coverage after the bodies of Jan Kuciak and Martina Kusnirova were found on Sunday at their home in Velka Maca, 65 kilometres east of the capital, Bratislava.

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Police say the couple, who were shot dead, were probably targeted over Kusiak's investigative work.

Their bodies were found at their home in Velka Maca, 65 kilometres east of the capital, Bratislava.

The case has shocked the small, central European country and highlighted public concerns about corruption.

The PM's senior adviser Maria Trošková and his Security Council secretary Viliam Jasaň are among those being probed, Slovak media have reported.

"Do not link innocent people without any evidence to a double homicide," Mr Fico told journalists on Tuesday.

"It's crossing the line. It's no longer funny."

What kind of stories did he cover?

The 27-year-old had reported for the news site Aktuality.sk on fraud cases. These often involved businessmen with connections to Slovakia's ruling party and other politicians.

A long-time Bratislava-based investigative journalist, Tom Nicholson, told the news site Dennik N he spoke to Kuciak a week ago about a case they both were looking at involving suspected Italian mafia abuse of EU funds in Slovakia.

Kuciak's last story for Aktuality, on February the 9th, looked at transactions by firms linked to businessman Marian Kocner. It was also connected to a luxury apartment complex in Bratislava that became the centre of a political scandal last year.

Kocner could not be reached by the Reuters news agency for comment on Monday. However, he has told Slovakia's public broadcaster he has no connection to the case.

What reaction has there been?

Aktuality's publisher Axel Springer condemned the "cruel assassination" of its journalist. The international professional organisation "Reporters without Borders" said it was appalled.

A group of 14 editors-in-chief of Slovak publications released a statement calling on the state to solve the case and help to safeguard journalists’ work.

Slovakia’s leaders promised to bring the perpetrators to justice, with the government offering a one million euro reward for information leading to an arrest.

"It seems that the most likely version is a motive connected to the investigative work of the journalist," Slovak police chief Tibor Gaspar told a news conference.

Prime Minister Robert Fico called an emergency meeting with Kalinak, the attorney general, the national chief of police and the head of the state intelligence service.

Kuciak's killing has dismayed EU officials, coming a few months after Malta's best-known investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was killed by a car bomb.

What they are saying

"If it is proven that the death of the investigative reporter was connected with his journalistic work, it would be an unprecedented attack on freedom of speech and democracy in Slovakia," - Prime Minister Robert Fico.

"We are shocked and stunned about the news that Jan Kuciak and his companion obviously have been the victims of a cruel assassination," - a statement from publisher Ringier Axel Sprinker Slovakia.

"Shocked by the murder of a journalist in the EU. No democrac can survive without the free press, which is why journalists deserve respect and protection. Justice must be served." - deputy European Commission chief Frans Timmermans tweeted.

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