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Wednesday's papers: Ylegate, rising pay, speeding ticket changes and presidential pondering

Wednesday's newspapers were dominated by coverage of Ylegate, a book by three ex-Yle journalists on Tuesday detailing allegations of self-censorship at Yle. There were also stories about an expected uptick in salaries, possible changes to speeding fines, and President Sauli Niinistö's decision on whether or not to seek a second term in office.

Yleisradion ajankohtaistoimituksen entisten toimittajien Salla Vuorikosken, Jussi Erosen ja Jarno Liskin Ylegate -kirja julkistettiin Helsingin Akateemisessa kirjakaupassa tiistaina 16. toukokuuta.
Ylegate, a book by ex-Yle journalists alleging censorship at Yle, was published on Tuesday. Image: Antti Aimo-Koivisto / Lehtikuva

The long-running scandal around Yle's relationship with Prime Miniser Juha Sipilä is in the news again this week. On Monday Olli Mäenpää published his report on the affair, which was ordered by Yle's board of directors. He found that Yle gave Sipilä special treatment and then reacted angrily when the media self-regulation body censured the company.

On Tuesday it was the turn of Jussi Eronen, Salla Vuorikoski and Jarno Liski, three former Yle journalists who left the company in the wake of the scandal. They've written a book titled 'Ylegate' which details allegations of micromanagement, self-censorship and senior journalists too cautious when covering politicians.

Tumultuous week

The book, and the revelations in it, are covered extensively in the papers on Wednesday. Eronen told the press that Yle editor-in-chief Atte Jääsekeläinen and Yle CEO Lauri Kivinen should both resign, while Jääskeläinen told STT that the situation was challenging, but that Yle was in better shape than many outside the company imagined, and that crucially, some parts of the audience trusted Yle more now than they did before the whole scandal began.

In such a tumultuous week for Yle, few papers resisted the opportunity to twist the knife with an editorial. Ilta-Sanomat led the way, arguing that "it looks as though, in trying to protect Yle's tax funding, the company's leadership sought to soften criticism of politicians. That led to an unsustainable situation, when the company's interests and journalism were in conflict."

HS suggests a clearer split between the company's lobbying efforts and senior journalists, while Ostrobthnian paper Ilkka strikes a different, more supportive note, railing against the apparently "leftist" idea that Yle should be a "playground for journalists' freedom of speech free from interference by senior managers". Ilkka does not specify who exactly holds such ideas.

Pay rising

Kauppalehti carries an editorial full of concern about rising pay demands, ahead of a new round of negotiations deciding on collective agreements across the Finnish economy.

Employers' organisations in the exporting industries are keen to tie down unions early in the process (official talks are not due until the autumn), in order to set the tone for pay talks across the economy--including in the public sector. That way the national labour conciliator would find it difficult to recommend pay deals exceeding the increases in those exporting industries.

The so-called 'Finnish model', after all, is that public sector workers can only see their pay rise by similar amounts that the exporting industries can afford. KL says the Bank of Finland sees the country still trailing competitors by 5-10 percent in competitiveness stakes, with pay restraint the main (or only) weapon used to close that gap.

The 'problem' is that Finland is currently awash with good economic news, with economic growth returning and exports on the up and up. Will unions and workers accept low to no pay rises when they see the economy buoyant and inflation making a comeback?

Tightening speeding law?

Ilta-Sanomat fights in the corner of the motorist with coverage of a legislative proposal that would drastically tighten the law on speeding. At present, the police can't fine drivers unless they are travelling at more than 6km/h over the limit.

The new law would include provisions to fine drivers who exceed the limit by as little as 1km/h, filling police coffers and infuriating car owners across the country.

The move is criticised by experts interviewed by IS, with the likelihood that some drivers would drop their speed considerably to ensure they weren't fined one of the key problems. That would in turn slow traffic and increase journey times. One motoring organisation CEO says that slowing traffic might indeed be the goal, but government should say so openly rather than cloaking it in an administrative change.

Decision time for Sauli

Last but not least, both IS and HS ponder when President Sauli Niinistö will announce his decision on whether or not to seek a second term in office. The next presidential election is in January 2018, and so far there is a paucity of candidates--thanks largely to Niinistö's overwhelming popularity.

If he decides to run, the chances are some of the other parties, in addition to his own National Coalition, will support him. HS reports that the NCP had hoped he would announce his candidacy early next week at a party meeting in Jyväskylä, but that plan is in jeopardy now as it is unlikely he will make his move before Mauno Koivisto's funeral, which will probably be on May 25.

IS reports on the SDP's difficulty in deciding on their own candidate. Ex-leader Eero Heinäluoma is one possibility, but he too is waiting for Niinistö's decision. He might not want to run against the hugely popular incumbent. In any case the SDP has decided in principle that it will stand its own candidate in the election, but it is not overwhelmed by volunteers for the likely thankless task.

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