On Thursday, Helsinki's District Court began hearing a case involving three journalists from the leading daily Helsingin Sanomat (HS). The trial relates to 2017 coverage of an intelligence facility in Central Finland.
Five years ago, Helsingin Sanomat published an article about the facility, which gathered intelligence by intercepting signals for the Finnish Defence Forces. The charges relate to the publication of classified information in the piece.
Since the newspaper intended to publish a series of articles on the subject, the three journalists face charges for the disclosure and attempted disclosure of state secrets.
Kalle Silfverberg, who at the time headed up the politics desk at HS, and reporters Laura Halminen and Tuomo Pietiläinen are the journalists facing prosecution. All three have denied breaking the law.
Reporters could face up to four years in prison
The offences carry a minimum sentence of four months and a maximum sentence of four years in prison. The prosecution is seeking suspended prison sentences of at least one and a half years.
Prosecutors claim Pietiläinen and Halminen co-wrote the article and Silfverberg approved it. According to them, the defendants were aware that the story contained classified information related to Finland's external security.
According to the pre-trial investigation, HS did not acquire the information illegally, so the charges are based on the publication of the information.
The preliminary investigation into the case has been lengthy and exceptional, involving three referrals to the Supreme Court.
According to the court's 2018 ruling, a memory stick taken from Halminen's house during a police search could not be used as evidence in the case.
In 2020, the Supreme Court granted leave to a Helsingin Sanomat journalist to appeal a decision by the Helsinki District Court regarding whether or not he had the right to protect sources who contributed to the story.
The Council for Mass Media (CMM) and the Association of Editors (PTY) have publicly argued that the case's judicial process should be as transparent as possible.
Proceedings began with a preparatory session, with the main hearing set to take place at the end of September.
A police investigation is underway to determine how the journalists came into possession of the classified material. Officials expect to conclude the investigation by the end of the year.
Yle sources indicate that the suspect in that investigation is former head of Finnish Military Intelligence, Georgij Alafuzoff.