Supreme Court upholds legality of HS journalist's home search

The court is still to rule on another case involving the examination and use of sealed material recovered in the search.

Image: Henrietta Hassinen / Yle

Finland's Supreme Court has upheld a ruling of the Helsinki appeal court that a police search of a print journalist's home and the confiscation of material were lawful.

The appellate court ruled last year that police had acted lawfully when they searched the home of a Helsingin Sanomat journalist suspected of destroying evidence after writing an article about military intelligence based on classified information.

The journalist had called on the appeal court to consider the confiscations null and void given that police failed to bring the material to court for examination within three days. However the Supreme Court sided with the appeal court and said that the special search conducted at her home did not obligate any court to review the case within three days. As such, the high court rejected the journalist's appeal.

In December 2017, the HS journalist wrote an article about the Defence Forces' Intelligence Research Centre, following which the force asked the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to launch a probe. The force argued that the news article contained information that jeopardised national security because it disclosed sensitive information.

Ruling makes material available to police

Police searched the reporter's home and seized a laptop as well as recording devices. The journalist said that the devices contained confidential information from sources. The Supreme Court is still considering another case involving the examination and use of sealed material.

The court decision means that police have been able to use material confiscated during the home search in its preliminary investigation. In addition, they do not have to return the material recovered in the search.

However the courts have still to rule on whether or not police are allowed to use material on USB drives seized during the operation in the preliminary investigation. An oral hearing on that matter will take place in about one week, with a decision to come later.

The trial related to the home search is part of a wider investigation in suspected information leakage from the Defence Force. The NBI is pursuing two lines of investigation in which the suspected offences are the disclosure of classified security information and breach of official secrecy.