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IPI condemns arrest, detention and trial of photographer over coverage of 2006 police action

(IPI/IFEX) - The following is an IPI press release:

IPI Condemns Trial of Finnish Photojournalist Markus Pentikäinen

Vienna, 25 October 2007 - The International Press Institute (IPI), the global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in over 120 countries, strongly condemns the arrest, detention and subsequent trial of Finnish photographer Markus Pentikäinen.

According to information before the IPI, Pentikäinen, staff photographer for the Finnish daily Suomen Kuvalehti, was covering events surrounding the ASEM (Asia-Europe Meeting) summit held in Helsinki on 9 September 2006. Anarchist groups in Finland had made clear their intention to organize demonstrations under the slogan "Smash ASEM" during the course of the summit, and these demonstrations were to be held in Helsinki's Kiasma Square.

Pentikäinen, who had been following the events surrounding the summit from the beginning, had been assigned to the demonstrations along with one other photographer and a reporter from the Suomen Kuvalehti. At approximately 18:15 on the evening of 9 September, a group of masked youths rushed a police line. The police ordered the demonstrators to disperse. These orders continued as the police cleared an area they had cordoned off. At approximately 21:20, Pentikäinen reports witnessing the excessive use of force by police officers, followed by a final call to leave the area. Pentikäinen refused to obey, believing it his job to continue reporting on events and understanding his constitutional right to remain at the scene.

After the police had finished rounding up the remaining demonstrators, only Pentikäinen and another photographer, Ville Komsi, remained in the area. Despite displaying press credentials, both were arrested as they attempted to leave. Pentikäinen was taken to a makeshift detention unit in a sports centre, where he was questioned, had his equipment confiscated, and was held overnight for a total of 18 hours without the opportunity to contact either a lawyer or his colleagues at Suomen Kuvalehti.

Pentikäinen has since been charged with refusal to obey police orders by the Helsinki District Court; the case is being heard as of 23 October 2007. If convicted, Pentikäinen faces a probable fine, although Pentikäinen's lawyers argue that his arrest contravenes his constitutionally protected rights under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

"Finland is a country with an outstanding press freedom record, which is why it is such a disappointment to see Markus Pentikäinen not only arrested, but subsequently brought to trial for carrying out his profession," said Johann P. Fritz, IPI Director. "We strongly urge those involved in hearing the case against Mr. Pentikäinen to respect those rights safeguarded by Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees the right to receive and impart information without interference by public authority."

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