The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) and the International Press Institute (IPI) today called on authorities to fully investigate the case of a journalist beaten to death in north central Poland earlier this month and to bring his killer to justice.
Lukasz Masiak, 31, a well-respected journalist at local online news outlet NaszaMlawa.pl in the town of Mlawa, was killed at a bar at approximately midnight on June 13.
Initial reports said the alleged killer was Masiak’s neighbour, but the reason for the altercation remains unknown. Police have arrested two people in connection with Masiak’s death, but they are still searching for the alleged killer.
IPI and its affiliate, the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), citing previous instances in which Masiak was threatened and attacked, urged authorities not to rule out any potential motive for his death until they complete a full and transparent investigation.
“It is extremely important that authorities consider all possible theories with respect to this crime and pursue all of them with equal diligence in order to bring Mr. Masiak’s killer to justice,” IPI Director of Advocacy and Communications Steven M. Ellis said.
Masiak had a reputation for monitoring authorities and bringing attention to regional crime, and he previously reported receiving threats in connection with his work.
A representative of the Association of Polish Journalists, speaking with local media, faulted police for not pursuing the journalist’s complaints more forcefully before his death.
"Lukasz Masiak was an esteemed and courageous journalist working for a local news portal,” the representative said. “We are very saddened to learn of his death and deeply concerned that [the] decisive response of law enforcement authorities comes only after the murder of the journalist."
In addition to receiving threats, Masiak had twice been physically attacked – once a year ago and once six months ago. Following the earlier attack, the journalist told local media: “It was certainly not an attack by the robbers. The person attacking me was clearly waiting for me. I’m sure it was about the reports we have published on our news portal.”
According to IPI’s Death Watch, if Masiak’s death is definitively linked to his reporting, he would be the first journalist to have died in Poland as a result of his or her work since IPI began tracking such deaths nearly 20 years ago.
Although the reason for the brutal beating remains a mystery, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatović, the International Federation of Journalists and the European Federation of Journalists joined the Association of Polish Journalists in condemning the attack.
“This is a tragedy and a horrific reminder of the dangers journalists face around the world,” Mijatović said in a press release. “Journalists are increasingly targeted because of their profession and what they say and write, and this trend has to stop.”
SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South East Europe. SEEMO’s press freedom work is supported by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) project, as part of a grant by the European Commission.