Freedom of the Press
Finland continued to rank among the most free media environments in the world in 2012. Freedom of expression and access to information are guaranteed under Article 12 of the constitution. Although journalists and media outlets are generally allowed to operate freely, defamation is considered a crime, and the government actively pursues cases involving defamation of religion or ethnicity. Finnish law gives every citizen the right of reply and the right to have false information corrected in both internet-based and traditional publications.
In June 2012, the Supreme Court ruled that Jussi Kristian Halla-aho, a member of parliament with the True Finns party, was guilty of “inciting hatred against an ethnic group” for a 2008 blog post that compared Islam to pedophilia and implied that Somalian immigrants are prone to theft and dependence on welfare. Halla-aho had deliberately written the post to provoke the state prosecutor after a court sentenced nationalist activist Seppo Lehto to two years in prison for racism and blasphemy.
The self-regulatory Council for Mass Media (CMM) is responsible for upholding ethical standards across print, broadcast, and online media. The CMM is primarily made up of media representatives, but it also includes members of academia and the public. The council accepts and adjudicates complaints from the public, and the maximum sanction is a reprimand that must be published or broadcast immediately. Participation in the CMM is voluntary, but all major media outlets have signed on. State assistance accounts for up to 30 percent of the CMM’s total funding; annual fees make up the remainder.
Physical harassment of or threats against journalists are extremely rare.
While print circulation numbers are down due to the transition to digital media, Finland still boasts a large newspaper readership, and subscriptions remain the norm. Media ownership is concentrated, with Alma Media and Sanoma controlling most newspaper distribution. Public broadcaster Yleisradio OY (YLE) and commercial channel MTV3 dominate television broadcasting. The radio sector includes four public-service channels and the commercial channel Radio Nova, as well as a large number of regional and local stations. Public radio offers broadcasts in the minority languages Swedish and Sami (Lapp).
The internet is open and unrestricted, and around 91 percent of citizens had regular access in 2012. Critics have raised concerns regarding the precision of Finland’s system for filtering child pornography, which has been found to block many legal sites. In 2010 it became a legal right for every Finn to have a 1 Mbps broadband internet connection.