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Court in Finland finds journalists guilty of publishing state secrets

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A Finnish court has found two investigative journalists guilty of publishing state secrets in a decision announced on Friday.

The main author of the article was ordered to pay an undisclosed fine based on a portion of his income. The Helsinki District Court ruled that the co-author had not received any punishment.

Charges against a third Musharraf were dropped. The verdict can be appealed.

The trial centered around an article published in the Helsingin Sanomat newspaper in December 2017. It revealed several pieces of information about military intelligence that had been classified to protect Finland’s security.

“We are disappointed with the ruling,” said Antero Moca, the paper’s editor-in-chief.

“Despite the soft results, the damage to freedom of expression has already been done.”

The in-depth article talked about the “organisation, capacity and procurement” of a communications center for military intelligence in Jyväskylä, 230 kilometers (142.92 miles) north of Helsinki.

“There were strong societal reasons for writing this article,” Sanoma Media Group, which owns the newspaper, said.

At the time of publication, Finland was in the process of drafting new legislation on intelligence activities.

According to Sanoma Media, the aim of the new legislation “is to give intelligence organizations very wide powers to monitor network traffic, which would limit the basic rights of citizens.”

But the court found that going into detail with classified information could only be permissible on grounds of public interest if it involved a “significant disclosure,” such as an example of “an abuse of power or other illegal activity by authorities.”

According to the district court, the article did not contain such important information.

While the published information did not “endanger Finland’s external security”, the information could not be considered “harmless”.

Pavol Salai, head of the EU bureau at Reporters Without Borders, said the ruling was “extremely worrying”.

He said that when “a country at the top of the global press freedom index” goes after journalists for their “coverage of national security issues,” it sets a “dangerous precedent for press freedom internationally.”

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