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Journalist to take case to European Court of Human Rights

(IPI/IFEX) - Vienna, 7 September 2009 – Finnish photojournalist Markus Pentikäinen, convicted in 2007 for ignoring a police order to stop reporting at the scene of a 2006 demonstration in Helsinki, is to take his case to the European Court of Human Rights after a Finnish Supreme Court decision of 1 September gave him "no leave to appeal," according to weekly current affairs magazine Suomen Kuvalehti – for which Pentikäinen reports.

"The Supreme Court should have defined the legal prerequisites upon which the police have the right to prevent journalists from carrying out their work at the scene of socially significant news," Suomen Kuvalehti editor-in-chief Tapani Ruokanen told IPI.

"It is impossible to accept the idea that public officials have the right to prevent the media from following events, and thereby to influence independent reporting and the evaluation of the actions of public officials. The violent removal of a single journalist is the indiscriminate restriction of freedom of speech. A single violent apprehension opens up the possibility for the arbitrary prevention of the work of others too."

Pentikäinen ignored police calls to leave the scene of a demonstration surrounding an Asia-Europe, or "ASEM", meeting in Helsinki on 9 September 2006. Although he displayed full press credentials, police arrested Pentikäinen and detained him for 18 hours.

A Helsinki district court then convicted Pentikäinen on 17 December 2007 of "refusal to obey police orders." The conviction carried no penalty as the court found Pentikäinen's actions "excusable," but Pentikäinen now has a criminal record.

Pentikäinen appealed the decision at the Helsinki Court of Appeal, stating that the categorisation of his performance of his duties as a "crime" conflicted not only with Finland's constitution and laws governing freedom of speech, but also with the European Convention on Human Rights. His appeal was denied on 30 April 2009.

"We fully support Pentikäinen and the Suomen Kuvalehti in taking this matter to Europe's highest court in Strasbourg," said IPI Director David Dadge. "We feel that Pentikäinen's right to continue reporting at the September 2006 demonstrations was protected under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees the right to receive and impart information without interference from public authority. We hope the Court will see likewise, and that Pentikäinen will finally be able to clear his name. No journalist should ever be given a criminal record for merely practising their profession."

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