Appeals court upholds that police raid of journalist's home was lawful

The journalist whose home was raided wrote a story on Finnish military intelligence activities using information from decade-old classified documents.

File photo of Helsinki Court of Appeal. Image: Derrick Frilund / Yle

Helsinki Court of Appeal upheld on Friday an earlier court ruling that the police raid of a journalist's home last December was appropriate.

In December of last year, police carried out a search of the home of Laura Halminen, one of the journalists who helped create a report published by Helsingin Sanomat about the Defence Forces' Intelligence Research Centre that included information from leaked classified materials.

Publication of the article resulted in the Defence Forces making a police complaint against Halminen, saying that she'd violated state confidentiality laws.

On Friday, in an appeal hearing held behind closed doors, the Helsinki Court of Appeal upheld a Helsinki District Court ruling that found police acted appropriately when they searched her house and seized 19 items belonging to the journalist, including cell phones, computers and thumb drives.

Shortly after the raid, the National Bureau of Investigation claimed the house search was justified because they suspected that Halminen had attempted to destroy key evidence.

Raid did not go unnoticed by journalists

The December raid contributed to Finland's sliding down the Reporters Without Borders' (RSF) Press Freedom Index this year, according to the group. The NGO said that source protection in Finland had been endangered by the scandal.

The incident also caught the attention of several news editors, including ones from Helsingin Sanomat, Kauppalehti and Yle.

Yle's editor-in-chief for news and current affairs, Riikka Venäläinen, described the search of Halminen's home as a radical development that "we are not used to seeing in western societies".

And in an open letter, the editor of Helsingin Sanomat Kaius Niemi said that the rationale for publication of the report should have been made clearer to its audience.

"If the justification for a piece of news and its publication is so hotly debated afterwards, it is clear to the editorial staff that there is [good] reason to take a look in the mirror," Niemi wrote in December 2017.