Finland: Photojournalist to launch Grand Chamber action against demo disobedience conviction

Judges are set to hear legal argument in a complaint brought by a photo-journalist, arrested while covering a demonstration and subsequently convicted of disobedience by a Finnish court.

The European Court of Human Rights Grand Chamber hearing in the case Pentikäinen v. Finland (application no. 11882/10) is scheduled for 17 December.

The applicant, Markus Veikko Pentikäinen, is a Finnish national who was born in 1980 and lives in Helsinki (Finland). He is a photographer and journalist employed by a weekly magazine.

Pentikäinen was sent by his employer to take photos of a demonstration held on 9 September 2006 in protest against the Asia-Europe meeting (ASEM) in Helsinki.

After the demonstration had turned violent, the police stopped the event, sealed off the demonstration area and allowed demonstrators to leave. Pentikäinen remained in the area, where a small group of demonstrators was still gathered, to cover the events. Together with those demonstrators he was arrested. His conviction of December 2007 for disobeying the police was eventually upheld by the Supreme Court in September 2009, but the courts did not impose any penalty on him.

Pentikäinen complains that his rights under Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the Convention were violated by his arrest and conviction, as he was prevented from doing his job as a journalist.

In its chamber judgment of 4 February 2014, the court held, by five votes to two, that there had been no violation of Article 10 of the convention. It found that the Finnish courts had struck a fair balance between the competing interests at stake and that they had therefore been entitled to decide that the interference with the applicant’s freedom of expression had been “necessary in a democratic society.”

The court underlined in particular that Pentikäinen had not been arrested for acting as a photographer but for refusing to obey police orders to leave the scene of the demonstration. His equipment had not been confiscated and he had not been sanctioned.

On 2 June 2014 the case was referred to the Grand Chamber at the request of the applicant.

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