General / 10.01.2017

New Year’s Message From UJF President Hanne Aho

For the sake of Yle’s credibility and the environment in its newsrooms, we need an outside investigation of what has really happened, says UJF President. Dear UJF member Thank you for being who you are. Together we are stronger in furthering each of the issues that we consider important. And what with all the changes taking place, media financing crises, challenges facing journalism, and fake news, there are plenty of them. We’ve had some positive news about the print media this year. Sanomat’s and Alma Media’s revenues have improved and advertising sales in Finland have perked up slightly. We’ve also heard from some quarters that the recession is over. If that’s so, it will inevitably have an impact on the commercial print media. We’ll still be under the competitiveness pact next year, but at the end of the year all contractual matters will be put to collective bargaining. According to the UJF’s labour market survey, wage growth within the print media has stagnated over the past two years. This wage stagnation, the small upturn in the sector and news of economic growth will create a clear wage pressure in the collective bargaining rounds for the print media next year. Though the numbers of redundancy talks involving the media have subsided somewhat, layoffs have not been avoided. Mediahub, which does MTV’s news programming, has faced tough changes throughout the year, and the situation continues. I really hope that all those whose future looks uncertain at the moment will find ways to cope. It’s been a difficult year too at Yle, the public broadcaster. Redundancy talks, the reorganization of work and performance, and uncertainty about the future have all fueled anxieties. And on top of all this we had Prime Minister Juha Sipilä’s emailing. Subsequent to Sipilä’s emails, Yle management instructed journalists that discussion of the Sipilä-Terrafame issue would not be continued just now. Management also issued a warning to Ruben Stiller about deviating from this line, though this was later withdrawn. The move gave the impression that Sipilä’s messages had swayed the situation. Then the head of current affairs Jussi Eronen and journalist Salla Vuorikoski resigned. More cases came emerged of the publicizing of stories being blocked or of having their content changed when they concerned government leaders. In the midst of such information, Yle’s administrative council and board of directors convened. The message was clear: at issue was the right of the chief editor to set policy, and this had been done correctly. In addition, Yle’s managing editor, Lauri Kivinen, announced that the chief editor, Atte Jääskeläinen, had the full backing of the board. The standpoints of those involved in the matter are too far from one another for us to gain a true understanding of it based on them. For the sake of Yle’s credibility and the environment in its newsrooms, we need an outside investigation of what has really happened. Debate about the issue, taking place partly in public and partly within Yle, requires caution. The situation is worst for Yle’s employees, most of whom are completely uninvolved, who have to live in the midst of the debate. I wish all Yle employees the strength to cope amidst all this turmoil. The furor about Yle is momentous because it’s about a fundamental requirement of a democratic society. It’s about the media’s supervisory responsibilities, according to the three-way division of power, about freedom of expression, and among other things that Yle has a statutory obligation to uphold democracy. If principles and laws are being violated at Yle, major decisions are needed to restore confidence in the public broadcaster. One can conclude from all the tumult over Yle that Finns really care about the fact that there is press freedom in Finland, as well as about the kind of journalism done by Yle. We need to remember this. Work on freedom of expression, responsible speech and journalism never ends. Finnish journalism is being constantly challenged in different ways. And the tougher this is, the harder we have to work on these issues. You have the skills and knowledge to make the world better through journalism, and the mission of the UJF is to support you in this important work. This has been a extremely hard autumn for journalists in many respects. The events at Imatra hit the whole profession. Many at first wondered whether the killer had had a plan, bit it seems that he did not intentionally pursue the journalists. The thoughts of all of us are with you who were colleagues of Katri Ikävalko and Anne Vihavainen. The coming year will bring new struggles. At the UJF office we’ll prime the organization to engage them and bring on new ones. In particular, the start of 2017 will see the startup of the new media cooperative, which will assist freelance members. Career training will continue and training provision will be developed. The New Year will also see the launch of a new, user-oriented website. But there is much that remains to be done to ensure we keep abreast of the upheavals facing journalists. Have a merry Christmas, a refreshing rest, and a Happy New Year. Hanne Aho President Union of Journalists in Finland

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