Finland has dropped down the World Press Freedom index for the second year in a row.
In the annual survey of press freedoms in 180 countries around the world, the Reporters Without Borders organisation ranks Finland in fourth place. Last year, Finland fell from first to third spot.
The reason for the continued fall is the case of a Helsingin Sanomat journalist who published a story last December based on old classified documents about Finland’s intelligence gathering capabilities. Later, emergency services came to her home to investigate a suspected fire.
Police then seized the computer hard drive from the journalist’s home following a search. A court case has found the search and seizure were carried out lawfully, and there is a wider investigation ongoing about the legality of publishing the classified documents in the first place.
Helsingin Sanomat says it stands by the decisions of its journalists to publish the story in the public interest.
‘One Scandal After Another’
Reporters Without Borders says in their latest report that Finland has seen ‘one scandal after another’ involving press freedoms.
They cite the 2016 case of a journalist at state-funded broadcaster YLE who was on the receiving end of a deluge of emails from Prime Minister Juha Sipilä, complaining about her reporting of him, and his family’s involvement in a controversial business deal. A senior manager at YLE – who was previously a leader of the youth wing of Sipilä’s Centre Party – then spiked stories and discussion topics critical of the PM.
YLE casts the story as an editorial disagreement between two reporters and editors. But three journalists involved in the scandal, including the senior manager, all quit their jobs.
An independent investigation into what became known in Finland as ‘Sipila-gate’ slammed YLE for its “arrogant” attitude in the case.
Ranking Other Countries
The top countries on the press freedom index are Norway, Sweden and the Netherlands, with Switzerland rounding out the top five.
Denmark fell to ninth place – largely due to the death of journalist Kim Wall on a Danish inventor’s submarine – while Estonia and Iceland are in 12th and 13th places respectively.
Bulgaria is the lowest ranked EU country on the index, at 111th place. Reporters Without Borders says that in Bulgaria “corruption and collusion between media, politicians, and oligarchs is widespread”.