law symbol
MFRR calls for acquittal of Swedish documentary makers

Press-ECPMF

05 February 2021

No Comments

05 February 2021

On Monday 8 February, a Gothenburg court will deliver its verdict in the trial of journalist Henrik Evertsson and camera operator Linus Andersson for their documentary about the sinking of the ‘MS Estonia’. Charged with violating the burial site of the wreck, they face up to two years in prison. The partners of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) stress the journalistic nature of the investigation carried out in the public interest and call for the acquittal of the two documentary makers.

 

The “MS Estonia”, a 157-metre long cruise ferry, was en route from Tallinn to Stockholm in September 1994 when it sank in international waters in less than half an hour with 989 people on board. It is known as one of Europe’s greatest maritime disasters, killing 852 people. Yet the causes of the shipwreck remain murky. The official version based on the 1997 investigation – that there had been a failure of the vessel’s retractable ramp – had been disputed for years by the survivors and relatives of the victims. 

 

Broadcast on 28 September 2020 on Discovery Channel, the documentary entitled “Estonia: the discovery that changes everything” revealed the existence of a previously unknown four-metre hole in the hull of the ship. It was filmed with a remotely-operated camera attached to an underwater vehicle. Evertsson and Andersson are accused of illegally entering a protected site considered as a grave following the 1995 agreement between Sweden, Estonia and Finland, which bans any exploration of the area.

 

This new evidence once again questions the official version and suggests an alternative explanation. While the  journalists do not draw any conclusions, experts interviewed in the documentary argue that only a massive force from outside could have caused the rupture. 

 

The Swedish Union of Journalists (SJF) stood with the defendants in court on 25 January 2021. During the hearing, several legal questions were raised by both the prosecutor and the defence. The prosecutor did not seem to acknowledge the journalistic purpose behind the action. 

 

SJF President Ulrika Hyllert rejects the argument claiming that the team produced a ‘commercial product’: “It is clear that Henrik Evertsson went there as a journalist and his work provided information of great public interest. This was illustrated in particular by the fact that the government now wants to amend Estonian law to allow further investigations into the hull.” 

 

Together with the Swedish Union of Journalists, MFRR partners urge to recognise the journalistic and public interest nature of the investigation carried out by Evertsson and Andersson, motivated by the need to answer a number of questions that remain open. The conviction of two journalists in a country with high standards of press freedom would not only send a wrong signal to other Swedish media workers but also to the public who would see its right to know violated.

Signed by:

European Centre for Press and Media Freedom

European Federation of Journalists

OBC Transeuropa

Free Press Unlimited

International Press Institute (IPI)

This statement is part of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), an Europe-wide mechanism, which tracks, monitors and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States and Candidate Countries. This project provides legal and practical support, public advocacy and information to protect journalists and media workers. The MFRR is organised by an consortium led by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) with ARTICLE 19, the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), Free Press Unlimited (FPU), the Institute for Applied Informatics at the University of Leipzig (InfAI), International Press Institute (IPI) and CCI/Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso Transeuropa (OBCT). The project is co-funded by the European Commission. www.mfrr.eu

Read news by categories:

Related news

Feature

ECPMF signs joint media freedom statement on the European Media Freedom Act

As the European Commission is finalising the draft proposal for a European Media Freedom Act, ECPMF has joined a coalition of media freedom groups to call for the EMFA to address issues around the European single market, media ownership and transparency of economic relations with the state, and how to support a vibrant, diverse and independent media sector.

READ MORE
Feature

Media freedom groups concerned by delay in investigation into leak of Emilia Șercan’s stolen photos

ECPMF joined a collection of media freedom and freedom of expression groups to express concern at delays to the investigation into the publication of Romanian journalist Emilia Șercan’s stolen photos and the alleged leak of key elements of the investigation into this offense. 

READ MORE
Mission

Czech Republic: MFRR pushes for reforms to strengthen independence of public broadcaster

Representatives from IPI and ECPMF travelled to Prague on 15 June to meet with officials from the Ministry of Culture and push for the development of reforms which strengthen the independence of the country’s public broadcaster.

READ MORE
Feature

Spain: Fine against photographer underscores urgent need for reform of Gag Law

Partners of the MFRR today express serious concern over the recent €1,000 fine issued to Pulitzer prize-winning photographer Javier Bauluz under Spain’s controversial “Gag Law”.

READ MORE
Jobs

Kauffrau/Kaufmann für Büromanagement (w/m/d) – Teilzeit (20Stunden/Woche)

READ MORE
General

“You can’t write anything without considering the war, because the war changed everything” – Interview with Ukrainian journalist Maria Grynevych

Maria Grynevych is a Ukrainian journalist and Chief Editor of the news agency Socportal. She has been displaced since the start of the war in Ukraine. Maria is currently participating in ECPMF’s Journalist-in-Residence programme in Leipzig.

READ MORE
Tags :