STOCKHOLM (Reuters) -A Swedish court said on Monday it had found two film makers guilty of disturbing the wreck of the ferry Estonia, which sank in the Baltic Sea in 1994 with the loss of 852 lives.
The roll-on, roll-off ferry, carrying 803 passengers and 186 crew, sank in international waters during stormy weather on its way to Stockholm from Tallinn, and has since been protected as a grave site.
“There is a strong public interest in maintaining the grave peace around M/S Estonia, which is the burial ground for a large number of people,” the Gothenburg district court said in a statement.
“The protection of the grave is stronger than the interest in the protection of freedom of speech and information,” it added.
The Swedish film makers were part of a Discovery Network documentary team which in 2019 sent a remote-operated vehicle to film the wreck, discovering previously unknown damage to the hull and reviving speculation about the cause of the disaster.
The official investigation in 1997 concluded that the bow shield had failed, damaging the bow ramp and flooding the car deck. The wreck site was declared a marine grave.
The court on Monday sentenced the two Swedish men – the production manager and the person who controlled the diving equipment from the vessel – to pay fines of 22,400 Swedish crowns ($2,068) and 18,800 Swedish crowns ($1,734), respectively.
The Gothenburg court had in 2021 dismissed the same case saying the film makers’ Germany-flagged vessel was not covered by the law protecting the site, but an appeal court referred the case back.
Following the Discovery documentary, Sweden last year enacted new laws to allow a closer examination of the wreckage in a search for new clues to its demise. The review by the country’s Accident Investigation Authority is still ongoing.
(Reporting by Anna Ringstrom, editing by Terje Solsvik)