Thanks to PM Juha Sipilä, Finland’s ranking as the country with the most press freedom will most likely see a setback in 2017

by , under Enrique Tessieri

Reporters Without Borders (RWB) ranked Finland as the 1st of 180 countries in its 2016 World Press Freedom Index. Even if Prime Minister Juha Sipilä believes that his questionable behavior towards YLE‘s affairs will not impact the country’s ranking, he will probably be in for a surprise. 

RWB’s methodology to access press freedom comprises of 87 questions in 20 different languages. Sipilä has hurt Finland’s ranking under “media independence,” which reads: “Measures the degree to which the media are able to function independently of sources of political, governmental, business and religious power and influence.”

It’s pretty clear that as a result of the actions of the prime minister, YLE’s ability to function independently without political and government influences have come to public light and are compromised.

Two reporters at the state-owned broadcast company, Jussi Eronen and Salla Vuorikoski, resigned this week citing that critical reporting of politicians like the prime minister has been suppressed at YLE.

There are other questions as well about press freedom in Finland. How come reporters are required to show the article to the person you interviewed before the story is published?

Read full story here.

Having worked for over twenty years as a foreign correspondent in countries like Finland, Italy, Spain, Argentina and Colombia, I’ve always wondered about the exceptionalism of the Finnish media.

It wasn’t too long ago when the Finnish media and reporters were forbidden to criticize Finnish-Soviet relations never mind suggest EU membership during the Cold War. Haven’t decades of censorship and self-censorship rubbed off on the national media today?

The Sipilä scandal is living proof that some of these bad practices from Cold War Finland linger on today.

Read full thesis (in Dutch) here.

A thesis published by Mike Hofman in 2014 titled, “Media censorship in Finland during the Cold War,” shows how censorship happened in this country.  There is a lot written in the thesis about the Finnish foreign ministry’s role in ensuring that reporters gave the “right” picture of Finnish-Soviet relations.

That “right” picture meant literally shutting your eyes to Soviet refugees crossing the Finnish border and not questioning the integrity of Helsinki-Moscow relations. Topics like human rights were no-nos.

I wrote for a number of foreign as well as Finnish publications during 1985-1995. The foreign ministry told me early on that I would be blacklisted if I didn’t stop writing stories that questioned Finnish-Soviet relations.

In 1992, I wrote an editorial for Apu magazine about the end of the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance (FCMA) with the former Soviet Union. The editorial was about to be published but was shelved in the last moment by the editor in chief, Matti Saari.

He told me that the only one who writes about these types of editorials was the editor.