It is evident that Yle has altered its reporting practices with regard to coverage of ownership stakes held by the prime minister’s relatives in a firm which recently received a large order from the state-run mining company Terrafame. Sipilä’s government recently granted additional public funds to Terrafame, which has long been struggling to avoid bankruptcy. Yle initially reported on this evident conflict of interest, but then after personal contacts were received from the prime minster himself, further reporting on the issue was apparently suppressed within Yle.
Jussi Eronen, a reporter with more than 20 years of experience, resigned from his position as a senior current affairs reporter with Yle on 14 December 2016, citing a difference of opinion with Yle’s management in regard to his own journalistic principles. Eronen feels that his superiors at Yle had put pressure on him to act in contradiction of his journalistic ideals. He emphasised that the role of a diverse and independent media is to seek out the truth, rather than to protect politicians against negative publicity – which is how he feels Yle has acted in this case.
Another current affairs reporter, Salla Vuorikoski, resigned from Yle at the same time as Jussi Eronen, justifying her action by describing an “extremely cautious culture” that presently prevails within Yle, restricting the scope for investigative journalism. Vuorikoski personally received a large number of angrily-worded emails from Juha Sipilä in connection with Yle’s reporting on his possible conflict of interest. She feels that the prime minster was trying to influence her unduly, and stop her from doing her journalistic work. Vuorikoski has regretted that Yle’s management seem to be taking the side of powerful elite politicians, rather than supporting their own journalists.
RSF will continue to closely follow investigations that are currently ongoing within Yle, though we feel that a report produced by independent external investigators would be more objective and reliable.
Yle’s position in the Finnish media sector is unique, since it is a state-owned public broadcasting institution, whose actions should meet its responsibility to provide Finnish citizens with truthful information and contribute to open public debate.
Finland is ranked 1st out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2016 World Press Freedom Index.