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Thursday's papers: Land of Free Press, EU urges tax change, student climate walkout

Helsingin Sanomat wins big for its free speech campaign, the European Commission calls on Finland to change its taxes and students walk out of schools.

Joukko nuoria osoittaa Joensuun keskustassa mieltään ilmastonmuutoksen hillitsemiseksi.
A climate protest by upper secondary school students in Joensuu. Image: Pauliina Tolvanen / Yle

The Great Journalism Awards presented by media conglomerate Bonnier were handed out on Wednesday, and daily Helsingin Sanomat was among the winners in the category of best journalistic campaign of the year.

The Helsinki summit of 2018 brought together presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, whose meeting in the Finnish capital sparked massive international interest and debate. Helsingin Sanomat took the opportunity to launch a campaign promoting free speech and a free press – while directly addressing both the American and Russian leaders.

The campaign, called Land of Free Press, was devised and coordinated by HS design chief Sami Valtere, marketing boss Veera Sivonen and editor Kaius Niemi. The messages were printed in English and Russian.

Helsingin Sanomien valomainos, jossa lukee englanniksi
Messages such as this were displayed prominently during the Helsinki summit last summer. Image: Aleksi Tuomola / Lehtikuva

The highly visible project brought English-language messages onto the billboards and streets of Helsinki last summer, with lines such as "Mr. President, welcome to the land of free press" and "Media-critiquing Trump has changed the meaning of fake news". Both Trump and Putin have publicly attacked the media in their respective countries.

The Bonnier journalism awards also included a prize for best article, which went to technology magazine Tekniikan Maailma for its piece on VW car seatbelts. The award description holds that the report may well have saved human lives due to the recalling of hundreds of thousands of faulty cars.

The best book award went to Minna Rytisalo for her historical novel Rouva C, which is based on the life of journalist, author and activist Minna Canth. Reporter Vappu Kaarenoja from weekly Suomen Kuvalehti was dubbed journalist of the year for her rapid rise to the top of Finnish journalism.

Commission issues formal notice

In more international news the European Commission last week sent a letter of formal notice to the Finnish government to bring its tax deductability policy in line with EU law. Financial magazine Kauppalehti reported on Finland's "wrongful" tax law on Thursday.

"The Commission decided today to send a letter of formal notice to Finland asking it to amend its legislation on tax deductibility of group contributions between affiliated domestic companies," the Commission writes. "The current Finnish legislation does not allow tax deductibility for contributions made to affiliated companies in other EU/EEA states to the extent that these cover definitive losses (as defined by the CJEU) incurred by the latter."

Essentially the losses incurred by a Finnish parent company's foreign subsidiaries should be deductible by the parent company itself, which Finland's laws have not and do not currently allow, KL writes.

The European Commission states that if Finland does not act within the next two months, it may send a reasoned opinion to the Finnish authorities, and possibly even follow up with further action. A tax expert at law firm Roschier, Ossi Haapaniemi, told the paper the Commission's notice is a strong message, but that passing a separate law on the covering of the losses of foreign subsidiaries will fix the problem, as Sweden has also done.

Students skip school for climate

An international school strike in protest of global climate change will include students from high schools in Helsinki, Turku and Tampere, reports tabloid Ilta-Sanomat. Vantaa upper secondary schools have also expressed their support of student striking.

Most of the participating students will be absent from school on Friday between 10am and 3pm. A march to the steps of Parliament will also be organised in Helsinki.

Finnish schools may rule individually on students' right to skip school in political protest; some schools have even sent internal memos reminding students that they don't have the right to go on strike.

However, many high schools across Finland clearly state that they support their students taking action.

Chief of the Finnish National Agency for Education, Anni Miettunen, told IS that institutions need to be allowed to run smoothly, but that the educational element included in a walkout is very much on the table for schools across the country.

"Climate awareness and issues of sustainable development are included in the national curriculum. A school may miss one strike day but still have a climate awareness agenda in place," Miettunen says.

The Union of Upper Secondary School Students (SLL) also reports that many high school students in Finland are concerned about global warming, and may organise in different ways.

"Young people often march out on their own volition as individuals, even without a coordinating organisation," SLL chair Roosa Pajunen says.

The Fridays for Future campaign and other youth efforts to make combating climate change a political priority stems from the example set by Swedish 16-year-old student and activist Greta Thunberg, who was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize on Wednesday.

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