Fri, 19 Apr 2019

A court in Finland has sentenced the founder of an anti-immigrant, pro-Russia website to 22 months in prison on charges of defamation and negligence.

The Helsinki District Court on October 18 said Ilja Janitskin's MV-Lehti website published offensive content about a Finnish investigative journalist, Jessikka Aro.

Two other defendants, Johan Backman, described in the media as a longtime mouthpiece for Moscow in Finland, and a female employee at MV-Lehti were given suspended sentences.

The defendants were ordered to pay a total of 136,000 euros ($155,000) in compensation.

Aro, a reporter for Finnish national broadcaster YLE, had become the subject of a hate campaign and death threats following her reporting on online Russian propaganda efforts and the existence of so-called Internet troll factories.

According to the court, MV-Lehti published disparaging articles about Aro, including one that accused her of being a drug addict.

The court said Janitskin acted as MV-Lehti's editor-in-chief in 2014-18 and was therefore responsible for content on the site.

Janitskin denies any links to Russia, while Backman regularly appears on Russian media.

Aro received Finland's Grand Prize for Journalism for her work, and the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) group expressed support for the Finnish journalist.

Western governments have accused Moscow of using bot networks or online tools to interfere in their internal matters. Moscow denies the allegations.

Based on reporting by the BBC, Yle, and DW

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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