Thursday

19th Jan 2017

Focus

Finnish PM embroiled in press freedom row

Finland's prime minister has been forced to deny trying to censor public broadcaster Yle over its coverage of a possible conflict of interest.

Juha Sipila got involved in a row with a reporter from Yle who had investigated a contract given by a state-run mine to a company owned by his relatives.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

In one email, he told the reporter: "My respect for Yle is now equal to zero, which of course doesn't differ from your respect for me. Now we are even."

Sipila told reporters at a press conference on Wednesday (30 November) he had not been given a "fair chance to comment on the story".

"There was not the slightest intention at any stage to limit the freedom of the press or to influence what Yle says or does not says," Sipila said.

"My confidence for Yle is OK," he added.

Elina Grundstrom of the Council for Mass Media, a media watchdog, said his handling of the case "looked bad".

She said it was "not tenable" for journalists to wait for the authorities before they report their stories.

The chancellor of justice, who oversees officials' compliance with the law, and the parliamentary ombudsman said they would look at the prime minister's possible conflict of interest.

The issue arose when state-run Terrafame mine, which had earlier received a huge injection of cash from the taxpayer, awarded a contract to Katera Steel, owned by Sipila's relatives.

The prime minister says he has no knowledge of Katera's business, was unaware of the contract, and denies he had any influence over Terrafame's decision to award the contract.

Meanwhile, Yle has itself come under fire after it was revealed that its head of news and current affairs, Atte Jaaskelainen, shelved follow-up stories on the conflict of interest case.

One presenter tweeted he had been warned for breaking the order.

Jaaskelainen issued a statement that he had simply told journalists to move on to other topics after Sipila's problems had led Yle's news agenda for four days.

Finland is generally regarded as having one of the world's best records on media freedom.

But the Sipila row is already the second controversy involving the government and Yle this year.

Last spring, then-finance minister Alexander Stubb told the public broadcaster to hand over its research of the Panama Papers leak to tax authorities and police.

Yle refused, and the Finnish authorities brought the case to court, where its pending trial.

Interview

Polish government in bid to defund NGOs

Ruling Law and Justice has promised to overhaul the NGO sector. The move could strain relations with Norway, a major donor to Polish civic life.

In cooperation with

News in Brief

  1. Italy to hold 70% of Monte dei Paschi bank
  2. Nato hit by 500 cyberattacks every month
  3. Hundreds of migrants face German security review
  4. Outgoing US vice-president warns Europe on Russia
  5. German far-right party calls for end to WWII guilt
  6. First Chinese freight train arrives in Europe
  7. Europe has no vision, says Italian minister
  8. Juncker has 'slight doubts' on his group's convention idea

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Caritas EuropaEU States to Join Pope Francis’s Appeal to Care for Migrant Children
  2. UNICEFNumber of Unaccompanied Children Arriving by sea to Italy Doubles in 2016
  3. Nordic Council of Ministers"Nordic Matters" Help Forge Closer Bonds Between the UK and the Nordic Region
  4. Computers, Privacy & Data ProtectionThe age of Intelligent Machines: join the Conference on 25-27 January 2017
  5. Martens CentreNo Better way to Lift Your Monday Blues Than to Gloss Over our Political Cartoons
  6. Dialogue PlatformThe Gulen Movement: An Islamic Response to Terror as a Global Challenge
  7. European Free AllianceMinority Rights and Autonomy are a European Normality
  8. Swedish EnterprisesHow to Create EU Competitiveness Post-Brexit? Seminar on January 24th
  9. European Jewish CongressSchulz to be Awarded the European Medal for Tolerance for his Stand Against Populism
  10. Nordic Council of Ministers"Adventures in Moominland" Kick Off Nordic Matters Festival in London
  11. PLATO15 Fully-Funded PhDs Across Europe on the Post-Crisis Legitimacy of the EU - Apply Now!
  12. Dialogue PlatformInterview: Fethullah Gulen Condemns Assassination of Russian Ambassador to Turkey

Latest News

  1. EU cannot copy Australia's offshore asylum model
  2. Brexit men launch anti-EU website
  3. Germany details its 'Marshall Plan' for Africa
  4. IMF predicts 'pain' for UK, as banks prepare London exit
  5. EP deal could help Tusk keep Council job
  6. UN struggles to monitor fate of readmitted Syrians in Turkey
  7. European space chief: Moon village is 'more or less a fact'
  8. May's speech was not a war declaration, Malta says