Finnish journalist convicted

Friday, December 21, 2007 at 8:47 | Posted in Finland, Journalism, Press freedom | Leave a comment

A journalist was convicted for insubordination but left without sentence by a Helsinki court yesterday. Staff photographer Markus Pentikäinen of the Finnish weekly Suomen Kuvalehti was covering the violent “SMASH Asem” demonstration in Helsinki in September last year as the police ordered him to leave the spot. Pentikäinen refused to leave and quoted his right as a journalist to cover the event. The ombudsman of the Finnish Parliament ruled in November that the police acted partly unlawfully at the demonstration.

The European Federation of Journalists condemns the court’s ruling:

“This is an appalling decision in a country that enjoys one of the highest standards regarding press freedom. It goes against Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights,” said IFJ General Secretary Aidan White. “When a journalist is doing his work during a demonstration that becomes violent, it cannot be that he or she is regarded as acting against the public interest and brought to trial, when they are only doing their job.”

“The government of Finland should carry out a full investigation and reassure all media that they have full access to demonstrations and public happenings,” White said.

Finland has traditionally ranked high in international press freedom comparisons. I have on several occasions pointed out that the self censorship widely applied by Finnish media is not reflected in those statistics because journalists are reluctant to talk about it. Alas, freedom of press in Finland has actually been ranked higher than it deserves. This incident may bring Finland back to reality in the rankings.

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