A court in Finland sentenced a man to prison for harassing journalist Jessikka Aro, who had been targeted for years by pro-Russian trolls over her reporting.
Ilja Janitskin, the founder of the right-wing, pro-Kremlin website MV-Lehti, was handed a 22-month prison sentence after being found guilty of several charges, including defamation.
As reported by Deutsche Welle (DW), Germany’s international broadcaster, Johan Backman, a long-time mouthpiece for Moscow in Finland, was also found guilty of defamation and stalking and received a one year suspended sentence. Another, female employee at MV-Lehti was also given a three-month suspended sentence.
The court ordered the defendants to pay €136,000 in damages that will be distributed to Aro, a journalist with the Finnish public broadcaster YLE, and other victims.
The October 18 court ruling was viewed as a major win against online hate speech in Finland and exceeded the sentences requested by prosecutors, reported DW.
According to the court files, Aro had become the subject of a multi-year harassment campaign by pro-Russian trolls after she began reporting in 2014 on Russian propaganda and disinformation that was being spread in Finland on social media.
In the four years that followed, her personal information was published online, her location was tracked, and she received numerous death threats. She even received a text from someone pretending to be her father, who had passed away several years earlier.
“I was hoping maybe this will end, but it just got worse and worse and worse,” Aro told DW prior to the verdict. “Even my own friends started liking and commenting these filth pieces about me, so I noticed that it really has influence.”
Many of the negative stories about Aro were published by MV-Lehti, including one that accused her of being a drug addict.