In 2014, Sweden notoriously began a painfully unsuccessful witch-hunt on an alleged Russian submarine, which was claimed to have been lurking in the Stockholm Archipelago. Despite the fact that the hunt proved a total flop for the Swedish Defense Forces, its aftereffects are still being felt.
A team of reporters from Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter, which is in effect the country's premier newspaper, are now being prosecuted for violating the Data Protection Act after having entered a military restricted area in the Stockholm Archipelago in October 2014. The water area was reportedly marked with signs indicating that access was forbidden. Dagens Nyheter's photographer Lotta Härdelin and journalist Björn af Kleen were detained along with a boatman by military police at the Berga naval base in connection with the submarine hunt. After their arrest, Dagens Nyheter's photographer also had his memory card confiscated, Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet reported.
The three involved denied the crimes, citing deficiency in the placement of the security buoys. The district court rejected their request to review the case, which was referred to the court of appeal earlier this week.
Last June, the seizure of the photographer's memory card was revoked by the Supreme Court of Sweden, which ruled that the filming ban did not apply and that the police's conduct was "contrary to the constitutionally protected freedom of acquisition."
"The filming of the protected object for the purpose of publication in media was carried out with constitutional protection," the Supreme Court ruled.
Dagens Nyheter's Editor-in-chief Peter Wolodarski welcomed the decision and tweeted that it was "gratifying" of the Supreme Court to invalidate the seizure of the memory card.
Meanwhile, the protracted investigation of the incident has stirred criticism in the Swedish media.
"The fact that a reporter and a photographer from Dagens Nyheter and their skipper first become subject to investigation and subsequently even a trial hearing for reasons of — maybe! — having been on the wrong side of a buoy in the restricted area, where they were on the spot to — maybe! — document a foreign power's military presence in Swedish territory is still not reasonable," columnist Thomas Mattson wrote in the Swedish tabloid newspaper Expressen.
The Swedish Navy has been performing notorious submarine hunts since October 1981, when a Soviet S-363 submarine accidentally hit an underwater rock and surfaced off Sweden's naval base in Karlskrona. The sub's dramatic appearance happened to coincide with a Swedish naval exercise, which enhanced the effect. Ironically, the sub managed to steer clear of Swedish naval radars, only to be discovered by a Swedish fisherman.
Since then, the Swedish Navy has found a number of "Russian subs," which later proved to be herring shoals, minks or even Sweden's own vessels. In 2014, yet another "Russian submarine" was spotted outside Stockholm. The Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter was the driving force behind the scoop, yet failed to produce any substantial evidence other than gritty images and paranoid ramblings by locals. The futile submarine hunt set Swedish state coffers back 20 million SEK ($2.3mln), yet reinforced Sweden's paranoid fear of a Russian invasion and led to a marked increase in defense spending.
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