Published in the leading Finnish daily Helsingin Sanomat on 16 December, the story caused a major stir and prompted reactions at the highest level of the Finnish state although it was based on classified documents leaked a decade ago.
The day after the article’s publication, police searched the home of one of its authors, reporter Laura Halminen, in very unorthodox circumstances, and found Halminen in the process of destroying her computer with a hammer in an attempt to protect the confidentiality of its contents, including her sources.
The authorities subsequently announced that the newspaper was the subject of a preliminary investigation on suspicion of “divulging information concerning national security.”
RSF is very worried about the impact of these measures on the confidentiality of journalists’ sources and calls on the Finnish authorities to guarantee press freedom.
“It is the job of journalists to investigate matters of public interest, and respect for their right to protect their sources must be guaranteed,” said Pauline Adès-Mével, the head of RSF’s EU-Balkans desk. “Failure to respect the confidentiality of sources in a country such as Finland, which is regarded as exemplary and is ranked near the top of RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index, would send a very bad signal for the freedom to inform.”
As Finland is currently in the process of preparing a military intelligence overhaul that could limit individual freedoms, it is worth stressing that Halminen and the article’s co-author, Tuomo Pietilainen, simply exercised their right to inform and did not violate professional ethics.
RSF emphasizes its support for the two reporters and the rest of the staff at Helsingin Sanomat, who are now being investigated. Ilkka Nousiainen has meanwhile resigned as president of Reporters Without Borders Finland as a result of a difference of views in connection with this case.
Finland is ranked 3rd out of 180 countries in RSF's 2017 World Press Freedom Index. It was ranked first last year.