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People hold placards during a silent protest march in memory of murdered journalist Jan Kuciak and his girlfriend Martina Kusnirova in Bratislava. Photo: VLADIMIR SIMICEK/AFP/Getty Images

The final piece of unfinished reporting from a Slovakian journalist who was assassinated, apparently for his work exposing corruption, was published Wednesday by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) and his outlet, Aktuality.sk. Jan Kuciak was working on an in-depth investigation into Italy’s ‘Ndrangheta, one of the world’s most powerful criminal groups, and their infiltration into Slovakia and next-door Czech Republic.

Why it matters: Slovakia’s vulnerability to organized crime has become of increasing concern to the European Union — particularly the connivance of politicians in large-scale fraud as well as the defaming of journalists trying to investigate such activities.

The latest

Kuciak’s last unfinished story before he was shot dead along with his girlfriend in their apartment over the weekend was titled “The Model, the Mafia, and the Murderers”.

  • It detailed an investigation into Slovakian PM Fico’s hiring of topless model Mária Trošková as one of his assistants, and Trošková's business ties to Antonino Vadala, 42, an Italian living in Slovakia with allegedly close ties to the ’Ndrangheta.
  • PM Fico has been criticized for holding a press conference on Tuesday, where he stood by piles of banknotes worth €1 million — the reward the government is promising for information about the killings. "Do not link innocent people without any evidence to a double homicide," he said, criticizing the opposition and the media.
  • Slovak Police President Tibor Gaspar said the authorities had questioned 20 people since Monday and contacted the Czech Republic and Italy about the investigation.
  • The Czech reporter working out of Prague with Kuciak, Pavla Holcová, of the Czech Center for Investigative Journalism, is now under police protection.
The backdrop:
  • Press freedom is falling in Slovakia, where oligarchs now own much of the media and politicians have taken steps to weaken the press. The situation for journalists working elsewhere in Central and Eastern Europe has deteriorated over the last few years as well.
  • Top politicians in both Slovakia and the Czech Republic have been criticized for their comments regarding journalists. Czech President Milos Zeman has made repeated ‘jokes’ about how reporters should be killed and Fico in November 2016 described several journalists as “filthy anti-Slovak prostitutes” after being quizzed about a corruption cases.

Go deeper

Ina Fried, author of Login
14 mins ago - Technology

Intel CEO wants to compete against Apple

Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger hasn't given up on the idea of the Mac once again using Intel chips, but he acknowledges it will probably be years before he gets that chance.

  • In the meantime, he is focused on powering Windows machines that give Apple CEO Tim Cook a run for his money.

Why it matters: In getting pushed out of the Mac, Intel not only lost a customer, but picked up a new rival.

18 mins ago - Health

Education secretary reveals limits to Biden’s mask push on states

U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, in an "Axios on HBO" interview, said he's reluctant to withhold federal funding from states that won't enforce school mask mandates because he doesn't want to hurt students.

Why it matters: Cardona's comments suggest there are limits to how far the Biden administration will go in pressuring states to adopt universal masking — or vaccine mandates.

Mike Allen, author of AM
29 mins ago - Axios on HBO

GOP senator smacks Trump

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) told “Axios on HBO” he’s not sure former President Donald Trump would win the Republican nomination if he ran in 2024 — a rare voice of criticism from within the party.

  • When I raised the conventional wisdom that Trump would be expected to win the nomination, Cassidy jumped in.“
  • I don't know that,” the senator said during our interview in Chalmette, La.