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Finnish President downplays Russian media buzz over journalist's smoking hard drive

Finnish President Sauli Niinistö told Lännen Media that Russian media curiosity about the issue is not a cause for concern.

Tietokoneen kovalevy.
File photo of computer hard drive. Picture not related to the hard drive referred to in this article. Image: Yle

The drama surrounding a Helsingin Sanomat news article about the Finnish Defence Forces' Intelligence Research Centre which contained classified material has caught the attention of the Russian — as well as Finnish — media for the past couple of days.

News outlets in Russia published details about the article itself, as well as the repercussions the article is having on one of two journalists who helped create it, Laura Halminen.

The article was about Finland's military intelligence activities and parts of it were based on classified materials.

Finnish President Sauli Niinistö told Lännen Media that he has noticed the news stories coming from Russian media outlets about the Finnish intelligence leak but said he was not concerned about them. The President also said that the nature of the information that the paper obtained is still unclear.

PM, Interior Minister await report on intel leak

Prime Minister Juha Sipilä's government is scheduled to receive a report about the HS intelligence leak on Tuesday. Sipilä said Monday that an investigation into the leak is important, as is determining whether or not it caused any damage.

For her part, Interior Minister Paula Risikko described the intel leak as very serious. However she declined to comment on whether or not HS crossed the line in publishing the controversial article.

Risikko said police should be allowed the opportunity to complete their inquiries. She did note however, that decisions to classify documents are not made without due consideration. The minister added that the leak may affect new intelligence legislation that is being considered in Parliament.

Sunday's course of events

The NBI carried out a search of Halminen's home on Sunday evening. During the search police seized telephones, a computer and memory sticks, among other items, according to HS.

The NBI said the house search was justified because they suspected that Halminen had attempted to destroy key evidence in an ongoing investigation in the building's cellar earlier on Sunday afternoon.

Journalist smashed hard drive with hammer

The paper reported that Halminen used a hammer to break a hard drive in order to destroy the data on it. The journalist told the paper that she broke the hard drive in order to protect the identities of her sources as much as possible.

The computer in question does not contain material related to the story published on Saturday, according to HS.

Halminen's smashing of the hard drive caused it to start smoking, following which she called the fire department for help.

According to the paper a police unit arrived at Halminen's residence with the responding fire rescue team.

Once police verified Halminen's identity, the paper wrote, police called in backup and conducted an hours-long search of her apartment.

HS editor's concern

The newspaper's editor-in-chief Kaius Niemi characterised the house search as very worrying in light of protection of journalists' sources and the ability of members of the press to carry out their jobs.

"A house search of a journalist, and on this scale, is completely exceptional in Finland, which has profiled itself as a leading country regarding a free press," Niemi is quoted saying in HS.

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