27 Jun 2019 Lvl. 2
Alert created on: 12 Nov 2015 Finland
Finland: Unclear Legal Framework for Guaranteeing Journalists’ Rights Covering Protests
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 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 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, the IFJ, Index on Censorship and Article 19 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.
27 Jun 2019: On 27 June 2019, taking into consideration the information provided by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland and the fact that the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights has been substantially clarified since the judgment by the Grand Chamber in Pentikäinen case, notably in Selmani and Others v. “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” and Butkevich v. Russia, the partner organisations to the Platform declared this case to be “resolved”, concluding it was no longer an active threat to media freedom.
- Principle 19: Monitoring of and reporting on protests
- Statement by the Union of Journalists in Finland: "Smash Asem verdict – victory for the state, defeat for freedom of expression"
- Article on EFJ website: "European court rejects press freedom violation claim by Finnish photojournalist "
- Article by Strasbourg Observer: "Journalist must comply with police order to disperse while covering demonstration"
- Judgment of the Court
11 Jun 2019
Reply by the Government of Finland
Relevant CoE instruments Disclaimer
29 Feb 2016
Factsheet on media coverage of protests and demonstrations