Finland: Unclear Legal Framework for Guaranteeing Journalists’ Rights Covering Protests

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Year 12 Nov 2015 Country Finland Category E. Other acts having chilling effects on media freedom Source of threat State Partner EFJ/IFJ , Article 19 , Index Alert level Level 2
12 Nov 2015 Finland E. Other acts having chilling effects on media freedom State EFJ/IFJ , Article 19 , Index Level 2
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The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled on 20 October 2015 by a majority (the President and three other judges dissenting), that Finland did not violate the freedom of expression of photographer Markus Pentikäinen. Mr Pentikäinen, a photographer for the Finnish magazine Suomen Kuvalehti, was arrested for failing to comply with the police order to leave the scene of the demonstration while he was taking photographs towards the end end of the 2006 Smash Asem protest in Helsinki which was violently broken up by the police. Mr Pentikäinen was held in police cells for over 17 hours and was subsequently prosecuted and found guilty of imputed criminal liability. The EFJ and the IFJ believe that the current situation creates an ongoing threat of arrest and prosecution to journalists covering demonstrations, as police forces and prosecutors will be inclined not to make any difference between the protesters and the journalists covering the event. European governments have now considerable latitude in imposing intrusive measures on journalistic activity in public settings where force is likely to be used by law-enforcement officials. The EFJ and the IFJ call on Finland and other CoE member states to adopt a clear legal framework for the treatment of journalists during protests, in order to ensure the right balance between press freedom and public order during protests and demonstrations.

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