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Wednesday's papers: Summit security, Niinistö's relief and Finland's press freedom questioned

Wednesday's papers cover the huge security measures surrounding Monday's summit, president Niinistö's take on the meeting and question Finland's press freedom.

Poliisi Esplanadin puistossa.
Image: Marja Väänänen / Yle

The aftermath of the Trump-Putin summit continues to dominate the press in Finland - and elsewhere too.

Daily Helsingin Sanomat (HS) reports about the security arrangements surrounding the high-level meeting on Monday. The summit was one of the largest and most demanding police-led security operations in Finnish history, HS said, with the police only given two weeks to prepare for it.

"The fact that the location of the meeting was uncertain for a long time created more challenges for us," said Heikki Kopperoinen, acting chief of Helsinki police.

Thousands of people participated in the operation during the summit, with Finland’s all other police departments, the Defence Forces and the Finnish Transport Safety Agency sending staff to ensure the safety of the guests and residents while providing protesters an opportunity to express their views, according to the HS.

In addition, dozens of people identified by the Finnish Security Intelligence Service were under surveillance ahead of the summit. Kopperoinen said the police observed and spoke to the persons considered “risky”, none of whom were part of any tight group.

During the summit, about 25 protesters were detained in central Helsinki because they were suspected of trying to stop the motorcades on Mannerheimintie, HS said.

Moreover, one journalist was removed from the joint press conference. “We did well on the whole,” Kopperoinen said.

Press freedom questioned

The reporter dragged out of the press conference tells his side of the story in The Nation.

Sam Husseini, a contributor to the US political magazine, says he came to Helsinki to ask the presidents questions about the threat of nuclear weapons and to distribute an open letter about the need for secure elections and true national security.

Husseini explains that over the years he has learned that asking leaders hard questions is difficult. “If government officials don’t like your questions, they just won’t call on you,” he says.

That’s why Husseini said he decided to hold up a small piece of paper to draw Trump or Putin’s attention. Written on the paper was “NUCLEAR WEAPON BAN TREATY.” Husseini expected the security officers to either understand that the sign did not constitute a protest, or ask him to turn over the sign.

He would have abided by that decision, Husseini said, but instead security officers “lunged for the sign, knocking my glasses to the floor and dragging me out of the hall.”

The journalist said he was taken to a small room and told that Finnish law allowed for police to detain him for 24 hours without charge. He was denied access to his phone or other possessions, and had to relinquish his press badge, which he later got back.

While on the way to a detention facility, Husseini said he hollered to onlookers: “This is freedom of press in Finland!” As a result, officers tackled him to the ground and cuffed him.

Husseini said he was asked more questions at the detention facility and released around midnight. No charges were pressed against him.

Niinistö relieved

Meanwhile, tabloid Ilta-Sanomat describes Sauli Niinistö's sentiments after the summit. After hearing that both Trump and Putin had departed Finland on Monday night, the Finnish president said he had felt great relief that the rigmarole was over, according to a Facebook post.

Niinistö said the whole undertaking had been successful because “Finns are trustworthy and take responsibility.”

The paper reports that Niinistö had received several pleas to touch on transatlantic and European security issues, including the Ukraine and the Baltic Sea area, during the conversations with Trump and Putin.

In particular, Niinistö said he recalls the words of a US senator who told him: ”You will be the last head of state who speaks to Trump before the summit with Putin. It’s on you.”

According to Ilta-Sanomat, there were fears before the summit that things could go wrong. However, Niinistö is pleased that none of these fears materialised.

“It was positive that there wasn’t anything negative,” he said.

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