There is a crisis at the top in Finland, the country that has been ranked first for the past five years in the World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
Prime Minister Juha Sipila has been forced to recognize that he pressured two journalists at public TV broadcaster YLE not to run stories accusing him of a conflict of interests.
The Finnish weekly Suomen Kuvalehti revealed on 25 November that Sipila sent around 20 emails to the two YLE journalists trying to dissuade them from publishing documents about government investment in a mining company in which his family has a 5% share.
One of the recipients, YLE’s chief editor, is said to have yielded to the pressure while a talk show host who wanted to defy the ban was reportedly threatened with dismissal.
Asked to explain his emails, the prime minister said he had “reacted emotionally” but denied trying to influence YLE’s editorial decisions.
“We deplore the existence of such practices in a country seen as a model of respect for media freedom,” said Pauline Adès-Mével, the head of RSF’s European Union-Balkan’s desk. “These grave allegations suggest that the prime minister overlooks this public service broadcaster’s independence and allows himself to apply pressure, which is completely unacceptable.”
Finland is ranked 1st out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2016 World Press Freedom Index.