Minister of Justice Anna-Maja Henriksson: Self-regulatory system of the media has improved the quality of journalistic culture in Finland
- As ethical guidelines, the Guidelines for Journalists are significantly stricter than the boundaries set by the legislation for the actions of editorial staff and media companies. It is thus justifiable to say that the journalistic culture in Finland is of higher standard than it would be without the self-regulation.
This is how Minister of Justice Anna-Maja Henriksson assessed the role of the Council for Mass Media in Finland, the organ monitoring the actions of the media, in her opening remarks for the meeting of the Nordic Councils for Mass Media in Helsinki on Thursday.
The Minister emphasised the responsibility of the media in the coverage of exceptional crimes such as the shootings in Hyvinkää.
- The media must recognise and be aware of the fact that the wide publicity gained by such acts may have some ramifications for future crimes. This kind of connections have been detected for example in studies concerning the American school shootings.
- But I would also like to emphasise the extremely important role that the media have in the aftermath of crimes like the case in Hyvinkää. On which other forum than in the mass media could we get such a varied group of peopleengaged in a discussion concerning the reasons for and consequences of these acts and tackling the basic structures of the Finnish society?
Henriksson considers that the Finnish system benefits from the fact that the Council for Mass Media in Finland covers almost the entire field of mass media, contrary to many other countries.
- The majority of the Finnish media belong to the organisations that have signed the Basic Agreement of the Council, which means that the Council may directly handle complaints filed against them.
- The Council for Mass Media has also ensured that the system is up-to-date. Both the Basic Agreement and the Guidelines for Journalists have been revised. In addition, an annex concerning material generated by the public and published on the websites maintained by the media has been drafted. The editorial staff is responsible for monitoring the contents on these online forums. The Finnish media and journalists have thus expressed their willingness for their part to take responsibility for making the online world civilised. However, the practical implementation of this monitoring is still rather defective.
- Although we have only a limited amount of research data on the subject, I, as the Minister responsible for the freedom of speech legislation, consider that the self-regulatory system of the Finnish media seems to work at least satisfactorily. We have not witnessed any crises that would have led to a need to make any essential changes in the foundations of the system.
- The Council is, naturally, criticised every now and then, and also the chairperson of the Council has occasionally been in the eye of the storm. It has also been discussed whether the system should be reformed, for example by establishing a position of a Media Ombudsman or a Press Ombudsman. As a conclusion, it may nevertheless be stated that the current state of affairs clearly seems to be positive, which is a good conclusion to come to as one of the sponsors of the system.
Further information: Robin Harms, Special Adviser to the Minister, tel. 02951 50176