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Hanne Aho: “Decision-makers need to comprehend the value of press freedom”

Finland’s ranking in Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index has taken a beating for the second consecutive year.

Democracy won’t endure of its own accord, says UJF president Hanne Aho. It needs both the decision-making system and a free media to keep it going.

Finland’s ranking in Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index has taken a beating for the second consecutive year. It now stands fourth after Norway, which is in top place, and Sweden and Netherlands, which hold come second and third respectively. Finland dropped from first to third place in 2017.

The Reporters Without Borders’ Finnish chapter attributes the country’s diminished ranking to the case last year involving police seizure of a Helsingin Sanomat journalist’s information relating to the Defence Force Communications Centre.

“It is really extraordinary that in Finland, in 2017, a journalist’s home was searched. It reflects the change in the social climate,” said Aho.

The UJF president said that the state of press freedom in Finland has been good for a long time because the various actors in society saw it as important. Now the situation is changing in an alarming direction.

“The common view on the part of politicians, civil servants and citizens about the importance of the matter is what has given us press freedom. We’ve already seen how in Finland not all decision-makers value press freedom and how they publicly disparage journalists’ work.”

Democracy doesn’t endure by itself, Aho warned. It is kept going by both the decision-making system and the media.

“There have been two murders of journalists in Europe within the space of six months. And yet not all decision-makers in Finland realise why press freedom should be cherished. People listen to politicians and what they have to say. And politicians must support democracy.”

Of Finland’s other neighbours, Denmark has dropped from fourth to ninth place in the World Press Freedom Index. While Russia is ranked 148th, reflecting the grim state of media freedom in the country. Two out of three former Soviet states languish below the index’s 150th slot.

World Press Freedom Day is held 3 May each year.

MARK WALLER