Is Finland Press Freedom really Number One in the world? I read with great amusement this piece of news by Reuters, about the recent controversy between the Finnish government and one of the most esteemed news broadcaster in Finland, YLE.
“Two Finnish journalists quit public broadcaster Yleisradio (YLE) on Wednesday, saying the company had suppressed critical reporting on politicians including Prime Minister Juha Sipilä.
The case is unusual for the Nordic country, ranked by non-profit group Reporters Without Borders as the global leader in press freedom. It follows a row over emailed complaints from the prime minister about the broadcaster’s coverage.”
I found myself LOL-ing after reading it.
Because…At this point, does anyone realise what the original dispute was about?
Do you know why you don’t know what the original dispute was about?
Well, it’s because the current media attention has successfully moved away from the topic of whether Finnish Prime Minister Juha Sipilä and his family has indeed misused his public office for the benefit of their private businesses.
Instead, the current discourse is on how Finnish Prime Minister Juha Sipilä was right/wrong in dealing with the journalist in his communications.
This type of reporting is called “red-herring”. Wikipedia defines it as such:
“A red herring is something that misleads or distracts from a relevant or important issue.”
Let me pose a question.
- If Prime Minister Juha Sipilä “couldn’t be more transparent about his business and investment activities if he tried“; AND that
- the journalistic reporting is on “the investment firm his children own, named Fortel Invest, owns five percent of Katera Steel, the company that won the Terrafame tender (which is a 500,000 euros contract)“;
Then why doesn’t ANY Finnish media go ahead to emphasise exactly how much is involved in this so-called conflict-of-interest?
Okay let me do a simple calculation for you.
We know that the amount of money involved in this whole saga is at least 0.05 X 500,000euros = 25,000euros.
Logic: 5% of the 500,000euros contract.
This is definitely not a huge sum of money, especially when it doesn’t even go directly to the Prime Minister’s bank account. Compare this to the Malaysian Prime Minister Najib did USD1billion in terms of corruption which goes directly into his bank account, LOL.
So what further investigation is Prime Minister Juha Sipilä’s afraid of? The amount is so small!
Then the next question is perhaps why Prime Minister Juha Sipilä sent 20 “angry emails” to YLE?
I find that sort of overreaction very strange.
Does he seriously think that he would be accused of “conflict of interest”, corruption or nepotism just because of at least 25,000euros which does not even go directly into his bank account?
- If he is worried about the Finnish masses being influenced by reports which alludes to such a small amount of money, it shows that he thinks that the Finnish masses are really gullible and possibly even petty.
- If he is worried about indeed being accused of a conflict of interest, it might imply that the real amount is way larger than 25,000euros.
We really don’t know exactly how much is involved in this so-called “conflict of interest”, because Yle has decided to halt investigation. In addition, the Finnish media is now all obsessed about “ethics” and “freedom of expression”, which draws focus away from the original issue of exactly how much in monetary value is the conflict of interest.
Therefore, the next key thing we can be concerned about is the self-censorship of the Finnish media.
Quoting Reuters again–“The case is unusual for the Nordic country, ranked by non-profit group Reporters Without Borders as the global leader in press freedom.”
So why is this case “unusual”?
Some readers might jump to the false conclusion that it is because Finland has noble values of always upholding “freedom of expression” and Finns always speak their mind.
In other words, some readers might assume that Finns are a different kind of human being than the rest of the world.
These are unfortunately stereotypes and words are cheap.
Let me posit another situation: could this Juha Sipilä case be considered “unusual” due to the some other verifiable “unspoken rules” which are broken in the Finnish context?
In this case, these unspoken rules that were broken include–
- The Finnish reporter who had dared to publish some of the “angry emails” on social media, in the name of transparency and public interest;
- The expectation that Finnish journalists do not do investigative journalism;
- The expectation that Finnish journalists self-censor out of their own will, to avoid “stepping on toes”.
If voluntary self-censorship is indeed the “unspoken rule” which contributes to the norm…then what does “Number One in World Press Freedom really mean”? LOL
Nah, seriously, just take some time to think about it.
So what if Finland is “number one in world press freedom“? What are the true implications if reporters are made to self-censor, or risk stepping on toes and having to resign due to “incompatible values”?
Well, at this point in time, some Finns will start to attack Singapore’s freedom of expression, saying that I have no rights to comment on this because Singapore’s freedom of expression is shit.
Once again, that is a red herring.
However, for the sake of logical argument, I’d address this concern here.
Even if you point to Singapore and say that our freedom of expression is really shit, let me just say that at no point do Singaporeans go around telling the whole world that we have excellent freedom of expression.
We do not act all noble–we address things as they are. This leads to you and I having the same expectation that freedom of expression in Singapore is limited.
Finnish society however, actively preach that the Finnish press ranks Number #1 in freedom of expression and therefore imply that they are very noble.
Therefore, this gives to really high expectation on the parts of the public and non-Finns because Finnish politicians and foreign ministry actively preach and boast that well, Finland is awesome because, “number #1 in freedom of expression”.
Well, the truth is that the Finnish media could simply rank #1 in freedom of expression simply because Finnish journalists self-censor to avoid “stepping on toes”.
So, stop acting noble, LOL. Verifiable facts do not support the positive implications behind the stereotypes of “number #1”.
Freedom of expression in Finland is great, yes. But it is by no means “perfect”. Does No.#1 really mean anything, and can you say for sure?
Now that you know what I think about “Finland and freedom of expression”, let me share with you my take on this whole saga:
I sincerely believe that Prime Minister Juha Sipilä did no wrong. He simply lacks media training, which is perfectly understandable as he came from an engineering background.
My logic behind saying this is because nobody ever subjects themselves to being a prime minister “for money”. If Prime Minister Juha Sipilä were really “in it” for the money, he wouldn’t have ran for prime minister–he would have continued growing his business.
It is my opinion that he loves the country and really wanted to do something for Finland, in accordance to his vision. This is precisely why he got really upset with a possible accusation of wrong-doing.
Imagine already having to deal with a lot of shit constantly for entire days, and now having to deal with such nonsense accusations.
I also sincerely believe that the reporters were in fact highly ethical and want to report things for the interest of the public. It is actually very noble and brave, because YLE as a broadcasting company is entirely public and funded by tax-payers’ money.
It is possible that both parties do not really trust each other in the first place, which again is understandable because media these days like to stir shit. So, what went wrong was probably because both parties got really emotional as values they hold dear to were perceived to be compromised.
So things quickly got personal.
That being said, I am sorely disappointed with is YLE chief editor’s handling of this issue, as he implied that both reporters are unethical. QUOTE–
“YLE chief editor Jaaskelainen, who has admitted shelving follow-up stories questioning Sipila’s role in Terrafame, denied any attempt to restrict freedom of speech.
“It seems that he (Eronen) cannot accept YLE’s journalistic principles and values… Due diligence and claims based on facts are essential in investigative journalism,” he said.”
How do you expect your reporters to make “due diligence and claims based on facts” when you don’t even allow them to continue to investigate?
Anyway, I wish both reporters who have resigned all the best elsewhere for their journalistic careers. ^_^
Better to work elsewhere than under such a strange YLE chief editor who do not even bother to defend you.