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Räsänen trial: Yle defends right to broadcast controversial views

Yle was not charged over Räsänen's comments on a radio programme, but prosecutors have demanded removal of the material.

Päivi Räsäsen syytteitä käsiteltiin Helsingin käräjäoikeudessa 14. helmikuuta.
The prosecutor has demanded that former interior minister Päivi Räsänen (CD) be handed a 120-day fine. Image: Silja Viitala / Yle
Yle News

The Finnish Broadcasting Company (Yle) has opposed a prosecutor's demand to remove parts of a 2019 radio programme that involved a discussion about homosexuality.

Yle submitted its response on Thursday to Helsinki District Court, where proceedings in the trial of Christian Democrat MP Päivi Räsänen are ongoing.

Räsänen is facing three charges of incitement against a minority group, related to statements she has made, as well as texts and social media posts she has written, about homosexuality.

One charge relates to statements made by Räsänen during an interview on an Yle Puhe radio programme — entitled "What Did Jesus Think About Homosexuals?" — broadcast on 20 December 2019 and hosted by journalist Ruben Stiller.

The issue of Christian sexual morality as well as the topic of marriage were discussed during the interview, and the prosecutor argued that Räsänen's comments during the broadcast amounted to incitement against a minority group.

The prosecutor has requested that the court hand Räsänen a penalty of 120 income-linked day fines for the comments as well as for two other incidents involving written statements.

Räsänen has denied all the charges, with her defence team arguing to the court that the case centres around the freedom of speech and opinion.

Yle has not been charged in relation to the views expressed by Räsänen during the 2019 interview, but the district court called on the broadcaster to respond to the prosecutor's request that the material be removed.

"Placing a removal order on the media in a situation where the media did not present offensive views and thus did not commit a crime could lead to self-censorship, that in turn could jeopardise the exercising of freedom of expression in a democratic society," Yle wrote in its response to the district court, adding that its duty as a broadcaster includes reporting on controversial matters.

The statement further argued that the role of the media is to present topical and controversial issues and points of view, especially when they are presented by a person in power. In addition, Yle believes that material should not be removed from programmes retrospectively, as this would change the discussion and the history of events.

The programme is still available on the Yle Areena platform.

According to Yle, the main purpose of the programme had been to inform the public about Räsänen's attitude towards homosexuals, as she is an influential and key political actor.

Räsänen is a physician, ex-interior minister and former long-term CD chair.

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