Ekstra Bladet acquitted in case of staged crime

Ekstra Bladet and two journalists were acquitted on Thursday in a case of a staged burglary in Amager. The acquittal took place in the Eastern District Court, to which the newspaper and the journalists appealed when they were convicted in the Copenhagen District Court in June last year.

The newspaper’s lawyer, Carlo Siebert, says that the case is basically about the limits of journalists’ freedom of expression. The district court believed that the two journalists, and thus also Ekstra Bladet, went too far, while the high court disagreed.

As a rule, journalists must not break the law in order to do journalism. But on the other hand, it can sometimes be necessary to document a matter of societal importance.

The case of the staged break-in arose when journalists from Ekstra Bladet and TV3 back in 2015 wanted to show how easy it was to hire thieves via the internet to commit break-ins and steal designer furniture.

In this connection, an ‘Egget’ chair by furniture designer Arne Jacobsen was placed in a rented basement room, and two thieves were hired to break in and steal it.

During the break-in, the thieves smashed a door. The journalists immediately hired a carpenter to repair the damage. The landlord was not aware that his premises were being used for that type of journalistic research.

Although the landlord did not report the case to the police – his door had been repaired again – the public prosecutor’s office chose, after lengthy deliberations, to initiate a criminal case in 2020.

Door was immediately repaired

The two thieves were charged with the burglary and sentenced in the district court. In addition, charges were brought against Ekstra Bladet and Nordic Entertainment Group, the company behind TV3, and five journalists for complicity in vandalism.

In the district court, three journalists and the Nordic Entertainment Group were acquitted. The court emphasized that they were not aware that the landlord had not been informed that a staged burglary was to take place.

In other words, they acted in the belief that it was a room belonging to Ekstra Bladet that the thieves vandalized, and therefore they were acquitted.

But – it was said in the district court’s decision – Ekstra Bladet’s people staged the break-in knowing that the room belonged to someone else, and therefore they were complicit in vandalism.

And the district court did not think that the journalists’ freedom of expression and the societal importance of the case could exempt them and the newspaper from criminal liability. Therefore they were condemned.

However, due to the fact that the broken door was repaired immediately and due to the very long processing time, the court decided that neither the newspaper nor the journalists should be punished.

In legal terms, it is called lapse of sentence. It is something different from an acquittal, as you are considered guilty, but escape being punished. And the newspaper and the journalists would not have that sitting on them. They therefore appealed to the High Court.

According to Carlo Siebert, however, the high court’s majority of five judges has given greater weight to the consideration of journalistic freedom, and therefore an acquittal has taken place.

He has not yet received the judgment in writing, and he cannot therefore go into further detail with the high court’s premises.

One of the high court judges voted to uphold the district court’s decision.

Source: Politiken.dk – Forsiden by politiken.dk.

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