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Yle reprimanded by media watchdog over PM reporting

Finland's media watchdog has given Yle a reprimand over its reporting of a potential conflict of interest in Prime Minister Juha Sipilä's handling of the state-owned mine Terrafame.

Yleisradion liput Ison Pajan edustalla.
Image: Martina Näreharju

The Council for the Mass Media in Finland (JSN) also ruled that Sipilä's conduct had curbed freedom of speech when he bombarded journalists with emails complaining about the story. The council found that Yle changed tack after Sipilä made contact, killing follow-up stories and changing others.

Yle had reported that a firm owned by Sipilä's relatives had received an order worth half a million euros from the mining firm after the premier had granted extra funding to keep Terrafame alive.

Subsequently Yle scaled back its coverage of the story, and in the fallout from the affair two journalists involved in Yle's reporting, Jussi Eronen and Salla Vuorikoski, resigned claiming deficiencies in the editorial process.

The JSN vote was level at 6-6 on the question of whether Yle broke the first three items on the JSK code of conduct for journalists in Finland, which are:

1. A journalist is primarily responsible to the readers, listeners and viewers, who have the right to know what is happening in society.

2. Decisions concerning the content of media must be made in accordance with journalistic principles. The power to make such decisions must not under any circumstances be surrendered to any party outside the editorial office.

3. The journalist has the right and obligation to resist pressure or persuasion that attempts to steer, prevent or limit communications.

In another judgement Yle was found to be compliant with the guidelines for editing a news story, even though it offered contradictory reasons for doing so.

Yle's editor-in-chief Atte Jääskeläinen said in an interview that he will not resign, and the company's CEO Lauri Kivinen affirmed his support for his editor.

"After a vote the JSN's interpretation does not correspond to our understanding of the editorial decisions," said Kivinen. "However we humbly accept the JSN decision and will consider whether this demands changes to our working methods."

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