Journalist Henrik Evertsson and underwater expert Linus Andersson were sentenced to 80 day fines for violating the law on the protection of the freedom of burial after filming and examining the wreck of the ship Estonia. It is now clear that the Supreme Court has denied them both leave to appeal.
Evertsson and Andersson, creators of the acclaimed documentary film “Estonia – the discovery that changes everything”, were initially acquitted in the district court, but the trial was later retried and they were both convicted in both the district court (tingsrätten) and the court of appeal (hovrätten).
They both appealed against the judgment to the Supreme Court (högsta domstolen), which has now announced that they will not be granted leave to appeal.
Evertsson and Andersson stress that their filming of the Estonia must be considered journalistic activity – for which they were awarded the Grand Journalist Prize. They also point out that Swedish law cannot apply because they were on a German boat in international waters. He also noted that their documentary led to a new government investigation and new dives at the Estonia and that the public has the right to a full picture of the circumstances surrounding the sinking.
The Court of Appeal, for its part, stated that “there is a strong public interest in maintaining the peace of the grave of the M/S Estonia, which is the burial place of a large number of people”, and that “the protection of the peace of the grave outweighs the interest in protecting freedom of expression and information”.
“The Court of Appeal has established that the men are guilty of the offense charged and, like the District Court, has found that the offense should not be exempt from punishment with regard to the principles of freedom of expression and information or for other reasons. The Court of Appeal has considered that the interest in protecting the peace of the graves of the large number of deceased clearly outweighs the journalistic interest of the men”, the court wrote in a press release.
The Supreme Court briefly comments that it has reviewed the material but that “no reason has emerged to grant leave to appeal”.
The Estonia ferry disaster
The sinking of the M/S Estonia is the deadliest peacetime maritime disaster ever to occur in European waters, with a death toll of 852.
The ship sank on September 28, 1994, between 00:50 and 01:50 (UTC+2) while en route from Tallin to Stockholm.
The official report pointed to a faulty bow door as the cause of the accident, a conclusion that remains a subject of debate.