Yle editor-in-chief pulls "theoretical" threat to exit media oversight council

Yle news editor Atte Jääskeläinen has clarified a comment he made in the Helsingin Sanomat Sunday newspaper, saying it was a "theoretical remark, and not even meant as a hint". In an interview on the recent freedom of press scandal branded "Ylegate", Jääskeläinen implied that the public broadcaster would leave the Council for Mass Media if they started to dictate Yle's journalistic policies.

Atte Jääskeläinen Image: Derrick Frilund / Yle

Yle news editor Atte Jääskeläinen has explained a controversial comment he made in Sunday's Helsingin Sanomat newspaper, saying it was not meant to be taken literally. He says Yleisradio, the Finnish public broadcaster, has no plans to surrender its membership in the country's self-regulating media watchdog Council for Mass Media (JSN).

"Yle is a voluntary JSN member. If JSN starts to determine Yleisradio's journalistic policies too much, then Yleisradio must surely set up its own body for that," he was quoted as saying in the Sunday edition (siirryt toiseen palveluun) of the country's most widely circulated newspaper, Helsingin Sanomat.

Jääskeläinen later wrote on Twitter (siirryt toiseen palveluun): "About the morning story in Hesari: I meant only to underscore that the decision-making power about Yle journalism should stay with Yle."

In a separate tweet, he said: "It was not even a hint. Of course Yle isn't leaving the JSN."

He says his remark was linked to a discussion on Yle's prerogative to define and decide on its journalistic policies and ethical principles itself.

"I wanted to underscore that Yle should have the right to decide on its own journalistic policies, as well as the right to follow even stricter rules when it comes to corrections than the sector follows in general, without suspicions that we would have succumbed to political pressure," the news editor qualified for Yle.

At 1:44 pm, Jääskeläinen again tweeted: "Let's just say it straight: I messed up by making an imprudent statement about a serious subject. I have no wish to undermine the JSN. I want a strong JSN."

Defender of free speech

Finland's Council for Mass Media, known better by its acronym of JSN, is a self-regulating committee of publishers and journalists that interprets good professional practice and defends freedom of speech.

JSN ruled in March that Prime Minister Juha Sipilä had curbed freedom of speech when he bombarded journalists with emails complaining about an Yle conflict-of-interest story. Subsequently Atte Jääskeläinen made the decision to scale back Yle's coverage of the story, a series of events now dubbed "Ylegate".

After several Yle resignations in protest of what many saw as self-censorship, Jääskeläinen refused to step down and the company's CEO Lauri Kivinen affirmed his support for the company's editor-in-chief.

The public broadcaster's management has since had to contend with added criticism for their initial response to the ruling. "The JSN interpretation does not correspond to our understanding of the editorial decisions," said Kivinen at the time.

Edit: New tweet added at 2:25 pm.