BRATISLAVA — The morning of February 26, Slovakians woke up to a harsh reality. We live in a country where a journalist can be murdered and our government fails to take responsibility.
My first reaction was pure shock. I knew Ján Kuciak personally; he and I were the same age — 27 — and we both studied journalism. But I knew him mostly through his articles. He was, without a doubt, one of the brightest talents in investigative journalism in Slovakia.
Then came anger. After the initial news flash, there was no information, just a briefing by the police chief. We decided we had to do something. Slovak civic society has been indifferent in the past. We couldn’t to let that happen again.
I hit “create event” on Facebook. Over the next few hours, thousands registered their interest. The public outrage was enormous.
When some 25,000 people showed up for this first commemorative civic march, we expected some form of political responsibility to follow. We thought politicians — confronted with the despair and hopelessness of their citizens — would be forced to take action.
It was the largest protest this country has seen since its independence.
But the prime minister responded by lashing out and attacking the president. And we became targets ourselves. When we organized a public gathering called “Let’s stand up for a decent Slovakia,” we were accused of being foreign agents paid by philanthropist George Soros and of preparing the next Maidan (the movement behind the Ukrainian revolution). Every press briefing came with new accusations, as the government sought to delegitimize our efforts.
But when we saw the masses of people flooding the Square of Slovak National Uprising, we knew this country still has hope.
We had encouraged people to raise their voices and tell the government it had lost our trust. And people took up the call. Together, we made clear that, as a society and a nation, we cannot move forward without a new government.
More than 50,000 people protested in Bratislava and another 50,000 protested in other cities across the country and around the globe. It was the largest protest this country has seen since its independence.
Slovakia PM Robert Fico, offering his resignation | Jakub Gavlak/EFE via EPA
The resignation of Interior Minister Robert Kalinak is not enough. Our prime minister hasn’t truly addressed our concerns.
Fico no longer has the legitimacy to govern this country. He may have won the last election, but he has lost the public’s support. He governed this country for 10 years, and led us here — to this point where we cannot trust our judiciary or the ruling coalition; where the murder of a journalist is met with a shrug; where we do not know if his decisions are really his or made to benefit his wealthy “friends.”
We are expecting a baby in two months. We do not want our daughter to be born in a country where a journalist can be shot down in broad daylight for doing his job. She should not have to grow up in a country in which politicians don’t accept their political responsibility and the government insults its citizens who raise their voice.
We want a decent Slovakia, and we are willing to stand up for it — again.
Peter Nagy is a journalist and works at Slovak publishing house Petit Press. Katarina Nagy Pazmany is a psychologist and works at the Center of Environmental and Ethical Education in Zivica. Together, they organized several demonstrations in Bratislava following Kuciak’s killing.