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Media Council: Press did not violate privacy of President's son

Photos of the presidential family, including their toddler son, appeared in some Finnish media outlets last June.

Sauli Niinistö håller en blombukett i handen och talar vid Gullranda.
The presidential couple's rarely photographed 4-year-old featured in pictures taken at the Paavo Nurmi Games in June this year. Image: Skärmdump / Yle
Yle News

The Council for Mass Media (CMM) has ruled that the publication of photos featuring President Sauli Niinistö's family at a sporting event in Turku in June did not violate the child's privacy, and did not require parental permission.

The council's decision was based on a vote of 10 to 3.

The photos in question were taken by a photographer working for both news agency STT and Iltalehti, and were published first by the tabloid on 14 June with other papers, including Helsingin Sanomat and Ilta-Sanomat, following shortly thereafter.

There had been no published pictures of the president's son since 2018.

Following the publication, President Niinistö said in an interview with the tabloid that he would have refused permission for the photo of his son to be taken, if he had been asked. He added that the photos were taken without his or his wife's knowledge, and no permission was sought from them.

Neither Niinistö nor his wife Jenni Haukio had formally complained about the pictures to CMM, but due to the social significance of the matter, the council took the complaints into consideration.

The complaints were directed at Iltalehti, but a comment was also requested from STT.

CMM outlined that the Presidential couple's 4-year-old child can not be considered a public figure and as a general rule, it is the media's responsibility to exercise special care in relation to minors.

However, the council added that the sports event was a public event where photographing people, including children, was allowed.

The council further held that in this case there was nothing in the nature of the published pictures or the context that would have violated the child's privacy.

Iltalehti's editor-in-chief Perttu Kauppinen also commented on the issue, in a press release by CMM.

"When the presidential family appears in a public place, there is no legal obstacle to taking and publishing pictures. The editor-in-chief states that it would be catastrophic for freedom of speech and an open democratic society if the presidential family could appear in front of more than 10,000 people without the media being allowed to report on what happened," the statement said.

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