Swedish journalist convicted for buying a gun for a story

A Swedish tabloid journalist was convicted today of illegal arms possession after he bought a gun for an investigative report to show the ease with which weapons can be acquired in the underworld.

The court in southern Malmoe also convicted Expressen’s editor-in-chief and news editor, respectively, of incitement to break the law and abetting the offence. All were given suspended prison sentences and ordered to pay fines.

The story was published in 2010 after three people died in a shooting spree, apparently racially motivated, in the Malmoe area, with the gunman firing at homes, businesses and cars and out in the open.

Reporter Diamant Salihu had little difficulty buying a semi-automatic gun and full magazine after making contacts in Malmoe’s criminal milieu for the story.

He handed the weapon over to the police immediately afterward.

The verdict did not state the duration of the suspended sentences. The fines were 30,000 krona (3,300 euros, $4,200) for editor-in-chief Thomas Mattsson, 13,500 krona for news chief Andreas Johansson and 14,400 krona for Salihu.

In a statement to the Swedish news agency TT, Mattsson said Expressen would appeal the convictions. “It is important to clarify the way in which investigative journalism can be carried out,” he said.

The defence argument centred on freedom of expression and information, but the court ruled that “even in this framework, journalists are not free to commit crimes in pursuit of a story,” said presiding judge Eva Wendel.

The convictions were for illegal arms possession and not for publishing the article, she added.

The fact that the reporter turned the weapon over to police was a mitigating circumstance.

“We cannot commit criminal acts on our personal accounts, but if it is a question of finding fault in society, which is part of our journalistic mission, we can,” said the head of the Swedish Association of Journalists, Jonas Nordling, after the verdict.

Mattsson told TT that Expressen “will continue to use unconventional methods to investigate crimes that the police and justice are failing to stop.”

The gunman who sparked the Expressen probe was arrested in November 2010, and his trial opened on Monday. Peter Mangs, 40, is accused of three murders and 12 attempted murders motivated by racism. He has denied the charges.