Sanoma Media Finland, press release, 27 January 2023
Antero Mukka, Editor-in-Chief of Helsingin Sanomat: “We are disappointed on the verdict. The verdict given were relatively modest, but the damage to the press freedom has already been done”
Journalist of Helsingin Sanomat ordered to pay fines in relation to an article of the Finnish Intelligence Research Centre
Helsinki District Court has on 27 January 2023 given a decision according to which Helsingin Sanomat journalist Tuomo Pietiläinen is guilty of disclosing state secrets and thus ordered to pay fines. Also journalist Laura Halminen was found guilty, but did not receive a fine. Charges against Kalle Silfverberg, who lead the politics desk at Helsingin Sanomat at the time the article was published, were dismissed. The court also dismissed all other charges against all three defendants of attempting to disclose or being an accomplice to disclosing state secrets.
Antero Mukka, acting as the responsible Editor-In-Chief of Helsingin Sanomat describes the decision as a partial relief.
“The order to pay fines was more modest verdict than the minimum, and a large part of the charges were dismissed. A significant part of the claims related to the content of the article were also found to be unjustified”, says Mukka.
Mukka reminds that the verdict is not yet final.
“We need to read and understand the verdict, which is very long, before deciding what to do. Some parts of the verdict still point to documents that are classified as secret so it is difficult to assess in detail our approach towards the court’s decision”, says Mukka.
“We still believe that the article that was published in December 2017 did not reveal state secrets. Also the court states in the verdict that no concrete harm has been caused to the interests of national security or national defense. There has been no proof of such damage during the whole process.”
“The process has been going on for five years already. It has been very strenuous for all who have been involved and also the court has noted this in its decision. This process itself has caused damage to the freedom of speech in Finland even though the verdict was relatively modest. The threat of suspended prison sentences combined with long process and public pressure is enough to cause a chilling effect on reporting issues about national security and other important topics. The end-result is that the ordinary citizen have less possibilities to form their own views on what is happening in the society”, says Mukka.
“The court dismissed the charges against all three journalists of attempting to disclose state secrets in relation to the draft articles that were intended for later publication. This was expected, as an opposite verdict would have been preventive censorship in practice”, says Mukka.
In December 2017, Helsingin Sanomat published an in-depth article on the Finnish Intelligence Research Centre, which conducts military intelligence operations. The article provided background information on this branch of intelligence less known to the public. At the time, an exceptional legislative project was underway in Finland to urgently amend the Constitution. The intelligence legislation reform was intended to give intelligence organisations very extensive power to monitor network traffic, which would curtail fundamental rights. There were strong social grounds for writing the article.
After the article was published, the police launched a pre-trial investigation into the case. The home of one of the journalists was searched, and the legality of these coercive measures was eventually the subject of Supreme Court proceedings on two occasions.
Already during the pre-trial investigation, the police stated that the journalists had not obtained the information by unlawful means.
“The decision is of course a disappointment, even though the sentences given were relatively modest. We need to study the verdict carefully in order to evaluate its significance for the journalistic freedom”, says Pia Kalsta, CEO of Sanoma Media Finland.
To request an interview with Antero Mukka, please contact:
Hanna Johde, Communications Director, tel. +358 40 673 8977, email@example.com
Helsingin Sanomat is the largest daily newspaper in the Nordic region and a forerunner in subscription-based digital journalism.