UJF president Hanne Aho has responded to events following the publication of an article by the national daily Helsingin Sanomat about a Defence Force secret military research centre, saying that the public has the right to know about intelligence matters.
Aho said that the police raid on the home of the journalist who wrote the article will not and should not affect journalistic work.
“The raid on the home was to loo for the culprit who’d leaked documents marked secret to the newspaper. The police are trying in this way to encroach on source protection.
The UJF says that the broadening of the scope of the criminal inquiry to include the journalist who wrote the article is suspect from the point of view of freedom of expression.
Aho points out that the law safeguards the publication of information that is in the public interest. Journalists are is legally entitled to protect their sources and not to reveal the sources of leaks, and they have a professional duty to publicise information that is in the public interest.
The article in Helsingin Sanomat relates to a new intelligence bill due to come before parliament, which will increase the authorities’ ability to conduct civilian and military intelligence operations.
“This legal package has not been adequately talked about in public,” says Aho. “Finland needs these laws, but their content needs to be carefully evaluated because they are deficient on the fundamental rights of citizens and, among other things, the ability of journalists to do their job.”
Aho says it is unfortunate that the essence of the story was overshadowed by the issue of the disclosure of secret information in the Helsingin Sanomat article. This was stressed in an open letter by the chief editor published in the paper 17 December.