- Tom Bromwich
The risks of being a political journalist
In the past year alone, three European journalists have been suspectly killed following the discovery of government links to corruption. Viktoria Marianova, Daphne Caruana Galizia and Jan Kuciak were each found dead at the scene of a “monstrous” accident. The politics behind these ‘accidents’ is apparent to be of sleaze and oligarchy.
It can easily be argued the death of Marianova, who had been investigating the Bulgarian government’s use of EU funds, is related to corruption. Bulgaria has been ranked 111th in terms of journalistic freedom (according to the World Press Freedom Index) and as two media outlets have stated, Bulgaria is characterised by a “terrible media atmosphere with harassment of journalists common”. Thus, Marianova’s death was surely not surprising. Despite the Bulgarian authorities claiming that her murder was unrelated to her profession, and the Bulgarian Prime Minister reassuring the press and the citizens that “journalists are free to report in Bulgaria”, one cannot help but make the following connection: as soon as Marianova published a damning article about government corruption and its links with the Bulgarian Mafia, she was mysteriously murdered. According to the Ambassador of the United States to Bulgaria, John Beyrle, the Bulgarian mafia roots run deep into the government. Some of the leading figures include General Lyuben Gotsev, a former minister of foreign affairs. Jürgen Roth, a former US Ambassador to Bulgaria even described the Bulgarian Prime Minister Boïko Borissov as the “Bulgarian Al Capone”. Is it surprising that Marianova was killed when her exposé directly shone the spotlight on the current government’s corruption and underhanded connections? Personally, there seems to be too much ‘happy coincidence’ for the government to treat this issue as a mere occurrence.
Conversely, Slovakia and Malta have standings of 27th and 65th in the World Press Freedom Index. Caruana Galizia uncovered highly incriminating documents accusing the Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat of avoiding tax and embezzling funds with help from “those who sought to violate the law”, as her family explained. The takeover of power by the Mafia has been evidenced by various reports of several media media outlets. However, the launch of ‘Operation Beta’ in 2017 by the Italian Carabinieri led to the arrest of 30 Maltese Mafia officials. This shows that Malta is not at all a state free from corruption, and like most Mafia led corruption, it penetrates the government as well.
Caruana Galizia’s son, who is also a blogger, wrote that “[Muscat] filled his office with crooks, then he filled the police with crooks and imbeciles, then he filled the courts with crooks and incompetents”. The statement has been echoed by some MEPs, notably Sven Giegold, Member of the European Parliament from Germany, who argued that Malta is breaking money laundering laws and that this only “reveals the failure of the national anti-money laundering authorities”.
Lastly, Ján Kuciak’s apparent murder in February 2018, which happened after he had written an exposé into the ‘Italian Mafia’s tentacles reaching far into Slovakian politics’ points directly to Mafia’s involvement in his death. Kuciak alleged that the Mafia has financial and personal ties with the former Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico. The Mafia, also called the ‘'Ndràngheta’, has been accused of embezzling EU funds on behalf of Fico, and of having close financial ties to leading Slovak officials such as Maria Troskova, the prime minister's chief state adviser, and Viliam Jasan, the secretary of the state security council. However, both Troskova and Jasan had resigned due to the allegations regarding their involvement with Fico.
Ultimately, are these deaths Mafia related? Well, in my opinion, it certainly looks the case to the regular citizen. As I have tried to portray, in all three cases, the Mafia’s roots run deep into the previously mentioned governments through financial means, promotions and favours. It doesn’t seem likely that these journalists just so happened to be writing exposés on the scandals the Mafia and their governments were trying to conceal, and they have all been murdered. Even more ‘coincidentally’, just after the news of Kuciak’s murder, the regional tax offices in Košice caught on fire. Aptly, in a famous mystery writer Jacqueline Winspear’s words “coincidence is a messenger sent by truth”. Therefore, the politics of these murders do seem to be related to corruption and oligarchy. With the Mafia holding puppet strings over some European nations, it seems likely that the affairs behind these governments dealing with the shadowy and murderous organisation had led to inquisitive journalists being murdered, simply to keep them silent. Ironically, their silence has been deafening.