Despite the billboards that faced both the Russian and U.S. presidents in Helsinki, it appears Finland may have their own problems with press freedom.
While Russian President Vladimir Putin has a long and sordid history of direct altercations with the Russian press, including alleged assassinations, the president of the United States has also been building up a reputation as an anti-free-press leader.
Three-hundred billboards purchased by Finland’s most popular newspaper, Helsingin Sanomat, greeted both presidents as the arrived in Helsinki reading, “Mr. President, welcome to the land of the free press.” However, when Finnish police dragged Sam Husseini, reporter for The Nation magazine, out of the press conference, it became clear that Finland may not be so free for the press, after all.
Despite having been given credentials to cover the meeting, he was forcefully removed after unnamed fellow journalists alerted security to the fact that he was carrying a piece of paper that read, “Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty.”
“I had the sign, not, as many people have reported, as a protest at all. I had the sign as an attempt to grab the attention of one of—of either Trump or Putin, to get them to ask me—to get them to allow me to ask a question about nuclear policy.” — Husseini
Although he repeatedly told people that he was only trying to increase his chances of being called on to ask a question by one of the presidents, he was taken from the meeting and detained until midnight after all media centers had closed.
Video footage of the confrontation was broadcast across the world on live television, and you can see and hear Husseini asking why he’s being so aggressively handled as his glasses are knocked off his face.
“After the conference was over, I went—they took me outside, and there were some people outside, and I said, “This is press freedom in Finland.” There are signs all over town here about how Finland is for press freedom and is in opposition to Trump and Putin’s authoritarianism. So I felt it rather ironic that Finnish officials were dragging a journalist out of a news conference, that Finnish officials were manhandling me in many ways. And when I shouted that, they shoved me to the ground, handcuffed me behind and on my legs, and threw me in the back of a police vehicle, took me to a detention facility north of the city and help me there until midnight, which is when the media centers closed. I don’t think that’s a coincidence.” — Husseini
To read our recap of the Russia Summit, click here.