Prosecution of 3 journalists ‘will have a chilling effect on national security reporting in Finland,’ CPJ Europe director says
Prosecution of investigative journalists in Finland, an EU country, is “unacceptable,” the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said on Friday.
The comments from the CPJ came amid ongoing press freedom controversy in Finland as three investigative journalists have been facing a court case for “revealing state secrets” in an article published in local daily The Helsingin Sanomat in 2017.
Reiterating that the CPJ is “closely monitoring this case”, its Europe Director Attila Mong said: “It is unacceptable that investigative journalists in an EU country could face prison sentences for their work.”
Mong told Anadolu Agency the CPJ thinks that “prosecuting these journalists will have a chilling effect on national security reporting in Finland.”
“The Finnish journalists’ reporting was in the public interest, they provided context and background to national security policies and decisions, prosecuting them sends a wrong message to other journalists working on similar topics,” he added.
The charges stem from a Dec. 16, 2017 article on the activities of the Finnish Intelligence Research Center, a unit that conducts military intelligence operations, according to the indictment.
In a press release in November 2021, the CPJ’s Gulnoza Said said: “Finnish authorities must immediately drop all charges against journalists at Helsingin Sanomat, who were simply doing their jobs by covering matters of national importance.”
Helsingin Sanomat said in October last year that “the journalists did not disclose state secrets and it was in the public interest to publish the 2017 article.”
Mong also added that the US case against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, which has attracted worldwide attention as an extradition appeal case continues in the UK, was different than the case of Finnish journalists.
“Assange’s case and the charges brought against him are different from the ones against the Finnish journalists,” he said, adding that the cases can be connected in terms of reporting on national security.
“What connects them is that both cases affect reporting on the topic of national security, which is a highly sensitive topic,” Mong said.
“Reporters covering these issues often work with whistle blowers and sensitive documents leaked to them. In general, CPJ thinks that reporters covering national security issues must be able to report on these issues without fear of reprisal.”
The trial against two reporters, Laura Halminen and Tuomo Pietilainen, and political editor Kalle Silfverberg continued on Thursday and if found guilty, the three journalists will be given at least 18-month suspended sentences.
The journalists are expected to appear in court in a November hearing.