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Court convicts photographer of "ignoring police orders" to leave demonstration he was covering

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is an IFJ media release:

IFJ Condemns Court Decision against Photographer in Finland

The International Federation of Journalists and its regional group, the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), today condemned a recent court decision in Finland against a staff photographer who took pictures during the "Smash ASEM" demonstration during the Asia Europe meeting in Helsinki on September 9, 2006.

Staff photographer Markus Pentikäinen of the Finnish weekly Suomen Kuvalehti was convicted for refusing police orders to move away from the scene while he insisted on his right as a journalist to be on the spot and take pictures.

"This is an appalling decision in a country that enjoys one of the highest standards regarding press freedom. It goes against Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights," said IFJ General Secretary Aidan White. "When a journalist is doing his work during a demonstration that becomes violent, it cannot be that he or she is regarded as acting against the public interest and brought to trial, when they are only doing their job."

The court convicted Pentikäinen but did not hand down any sentence because, in the court's opinion, he was covering the event out of a professional obligation that led him to ignore the police orders.

The Parliamentary ombudsman had in November considered that the police acted in part unlawfully in its response to the "Smash Asem" demonstration.

"The government of Finland should carry out a full investigation and reassure all media that they have full access to demonstrations and public happenings," White said.

The EFJ represents over 230,000 journalists in 32 countries.

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