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Finland – (C2) Independence of the news media from power holders

Score in short:

Independence of the Finnish news media from power holders is generally strong.

Score in detail:

In general, journalists are not granted a special status in the Finnish law, except for legislation which specifies the responsibilities of editors-in-chief. The confidentiality of sources is guaranteed in the freedom of speech act9 and in the professional codeof-ethics. Recent government motions to modify the strong protection of sources or privacy regulations, although unsuccessful, were mentioned by many respondents as worrying trends from the perspective of the media.

While the press and public broadcasting in the 1960s and the 1970s had close connections to the political establishment, this political parallelism has declined notably. Many studies have noted that leading news media have become politically more independent (Herkman 2009). The significance of party affiliation has also strongly decreased in the news media. While newspapers affiliated with a specific political party still exist (largely due to state aid to political parties), their significance has been steadily decreasing and almost all leading news media organizations now emphasize political independence.

There are few non-media companies among the owners of the leading news media. Most national media outlets are owned by one of the major media conglomerates, while most local newspapers in Finland are owned by a relatively small company, families or other private individuals with historical roots in publishing.

Rather than ownership or other direct economic ties, respondents suggested that problems of independence in relation to powerful economic actors arise from the strict information management and lack of openness by large corporations who are not bound by the same transparency requirements as public authorities. Many of the respondents also noted that journalists themselves should be more critical and that more resources are needed to fulfil the watchdog role also against private companies and economic power holders. one respondent also suggested that independence is a specific problem in areas such as culture and sports, where journalists in a small country tend to develop close relations to their sources.