Guilty verdict for right wing agitators who targeted Finnish journalist

Kremlin mouthpiece Johan Bäckman and far right publisher Ilja Janitskin convicted for their part in a sustained online hate campaign against journalist Jessikka Aro.

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File photo of judge holding documents / Credit: iStock

Two right wing agitators who targeted Finnish journalist Jessikka Aro in a sustained campaign of online intimidation have been found guilty in a Helsinki court.

Pro-Kremlin propagandist Johan Bäckman was convicted on three counts of stalking, aggravated defamation, and inciting others to aggravated defamation. He received a one year suspended sentence.

The founder of far right MV-Lehti newspaper Ilja Janitskin were convicted on 13 of 16 counts, including three of aggravated defamation. He’ll go to prison for one year and ten months.

Jessikka Aro’s reaction

Award-winning journalist Aro exposed the operations of a Russian propaganda factory in St. Petersburg. She has been the target of threats, online abuse and harassment ever since, spearheaded by right wing publications and individuals.

Today, she says she is “so pleased” that the court’s decision was well argued.

“The trial was massive but they put all the important information in the trial, and I was really happy about the verdict. I would just like to comment that they got what they deserved” says Aro.

“What I’m hoping and wishing and actually waiting is to move on with my life, especially my working life, without any harassment, without any smear campaign, without people being agitated to come to the trial, to call me names or harass any journalists covering the trial” she tells News Now Finland.

Aro says she is looking forward to seeing how the trial and guilty verdict against the right wing agitators influences fake news sites, which can now be held responsible for their actions in court if they attack Finnish journalists.

“I also hope and believe this verdict will encourage other journalists to cover all topics in the future without fear they might be targets of a hateful campaign” she says.

A legal first in Finland

There is a right of appeal for Janitskin, and he’s expected to take his case to a higher court, especially considering the sentence. His legal team has 30 days to lodge an appeal.

Aro’s lawyer Martina Kronström says the case set a legal precendent in Finland, where journalists now know they have the law on their side in cases of online harassment and defamation.

“I hope this verdict will actually effect people, that they will get more responsible and careful with what they are writing on the internet. You have to bear responsibility for what you write there” says Kronström in a phone interview.