ASEM demonstration: appeals court upholds conviction of news photographer
Photojournalist to appeal decision, which has sparked international criticism
A news photographer convicted of resisting police during the Smash Asem demonstration during the Asia Europe Meeting held in Helsinki in 2006 had his appeal rejected by the Helsinki Court of Appeals on Thursday.
Markus Pentikäinen, a photographer working for the weekly news magazine Suomen Kuvalehti, plans to appeal the case further to the Supreme Court.
The conviction came because he had failed to follow a police order to leave the scene of the demonstration, which had turned violent.
Pentikäinen felt that he was right to have remained on the scene, because he was doing his job, and wanted to follow the events to their conclusion.
The prosecution maintained that the actions of the police were plain for everyone to see anyway.
In its original decision, Helsinki District Court agreed that the police action imposed a restriction on Pentikäinen’s freedom, but that there were legitimate reasons for doing so.
Although he was found guilty, the court did not impose any punishment, noting that Pentikäinen had to adapt his behaviour to the expectations of both his employer and the police, which were in conflict with each other to some extent.
Pentikäinen said that he was surprised at the Appeals Court decision.
He sees the issue as so important as a matter of principle that he wants a ruling on it from the Supreme Court.
“If there is a threat or a danger that a journalist doing his work is arrested and convicted, it will influence how the press works. Officials naturally must be allowed to do their jobs, but information needs to be disseminated, especially if the actions of the officials need to be evaluated”, Pentikäinen says.
The International Press Institute IPI sharply criticised the original verdict. “If the verdict is allowed to stand, it will be a worrying precedent for freedom of the press in Finland”, the IPI stated.
A total of 58 people were convicted in connection with the riots that took place during ASEM in the autumn of 2006.
Four people appealed their convictions. The Court of Appeals reduced the fine of one of them, and threw out the conviction of resisting an official. One cancelled the appeal, and one failed to appear in court.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Court clears police of charges after Smash Asem riot (1.4.2008)
Two police officers face charges in connection with Smash Asem demonstration (10.1.2008)