Freedom of expression
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. –Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
In Finland, freedom of expression is safeguarded by the Constitution. Section 12 of the Constitution reads:
- Everyone has the freedom of expression. Freedom of expression entails the right to express, disseminate and receive information, opinions and other communications without prior prevention by anyone. More detailed provisions on the exercise of the freedom of expression are laid down by an Act. Provisions on restrictions relating to pictorial programmes that are necessary for the protection of children may be laid down by an Act.
- Documents and recordings in the possession of the authorities are public, unless their publication has for compelling reasons been specifically restricted by an Act. Everyone has the right of access to public documents and recordings.
- “Everyone has the freedom of expression. Freedom of expression entails the right to express, disseminate and receive information, opinions and other communications without prior prevention by anyone.”
Finland has also signed the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, Article 10 of which reads:
- “Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers.”
In Finland, freedom of expression is a constitutional and fundamental right. Together with the rights of assembly and association, it is a mainstay of society.
As with other fundamental rights and freedoms, as few restrictions as possible are imposed on freedom of expression, and even then without violating its main idea.
According to Article 10 of the European Convention, freedom of expression can only be restricted by law and for reasons that
- “…are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.”
The right to acquire and receive information has become an equally important feature of freedom of expression. The precondition for this is that information is freely available and presented comprehensibly.
In Finland, there is no prior censorship, as the law guarantees the right to receive information unimpeded. The exercise of freedom of expression can, however, be subject to intervention retrospectively, if the information made public proves unlawful.