Yle orders external report on company's journalism

Yleisradio has ordered an independent report into the company's journalistic decision-making, following an extended scandal over possible self-censorship of stories about the Prime Minister, Juha Sipilä.

Image: Derrick Frilund / Yle

Yle's Board of Directors has commissioned an external report into the company's journalistic decision-making. The investigation will be conducted by Olli Mäenpää, a professor of administrative law at Helsinki University.

The move follows a months-long scandal over Yle's decision to spike some follow-up stories about the Prime Minister Juha Sipilä after he sent some twenty emails to Yle journalists complaining about an initial report on his links to a sub-contractor of the state-owned mining firm, Terrafame.

"We believe that Yle's journalistic decision-making will stand up to scrutiny," said Atte Jääskeläinen, editor-in-chief of Yle's News and Current Affairs division.

Wide-ranging report

Yle had originally rejected the suggestion that an external report was necessary, but has now changed course after months of fevered debate about the company's decisions and the resignations of several high-profile journalists.

Mäenpää has been a professor since 1982, and served as chair of the Council for the Mass Media in Finland from 1999 until 2003. He is due to present his report in May.

The report will also look at Yle's other operations, from children's programming to drama, to evaluate their ethical underpinnings. Yle will also produce television and radio programming around the topic during this period, and people will be able to send in questions and comments while the report is being conducted.

JSN exonerates Yle over Sipilä

On Thursday the Council for the Mass Media in Finland (JSN) announced its verdicts over two stories connected with the scandal. The first was Yle's original story on Sipilä's links with a Terrafame sub-contractor, over which the JSN had received a complaint that Yle should have given the Prime Minister more time to provide a response.

The JSN ruled that the story was not especially negative about Sipilä, but was neutral in tone and the Prime Minister should, by dint of his position, be able to withstand a higher degree of criticism than ordinary people. Yle had also published in that story Sipilä's comments from a previous report in other media on the same topic, so his views were not completely un-represented. Therefore JSN ruled that  Yle's decision to publish without obtaining fresh quotes from Sipilä reacting to the story was justified.

The second verdict related to a story in Suomen Kuvalehti on the decision-making within Yle that followed that original Sipilä story. The story reported that Yle had stopped reporting on the case in the days following publication after Sipilä had sent angry emails to several journalists.

The Suomen Kuvalehti report was published in the early hours of the morning without a comment from editor-in-chief Atte Jääskeläinen, which brought a reprimand from JSN. The watchdog ruled that as the story involved very damaging allegations, SK should have ensured both sides were represented in the story before publication.