HELSINKI, March 23 Finland's media watchdog
accused the prime minister on Thursday of putting pressure on
state broadcaster YLE by sending it a series of angry emails and
texts over a story about the awarding of a state engineering
The Council for Mass Media also scolded YLE for caving into
Juha Sipila's pressure by making changes to an online story
after receiving his complaints.
The case has caused a particular stir in the Nordic country,
ranked as the global leader in press freedom by media rights
group Reporters Without Borders.
Sipila acknowledged on Thursday that his messages had been a
"mistake". YLE's editor in chief, Atte Jaaskelainen, called the
watchdog's criticism of the broadcaster "harsh" and said his
conscience was clear.
The prime minister sent his complaints after YLE reported in
November that Katera Steel, an engineering company owned by
Sipila's relatives, received a half-million-euro order from a
state-owned nickel mine, around the same time that the mine
received a cash injection from the state.
Sipila, who was cleared of any conflict of interest by
Finland's parliamentary watchdog in February, complained that he
had not been given enough time to comment on the story before
"The amount and the tone of the prime minister's messages
can be considered exceptional, and can be interpreted as an
attempt to pressure (YLE)", the watchdog said in a statement.
YLE then changed the structure of the online story, edited
the text and removed a graphic, actions that effectively
"surrendered its editorial decision making to an outside party,"
the watchdog added.
”I already apologised for sending the emails in November, it
was a mistake, but I still think I had the right to be heard”
Sipila told reporters at the parliament.
YLE's Jaaskelainen described the watchdog's rebuke as "a
harsh decision," in an interview on YLE television news.
"I will not resign. I have made a decision based on my
values, to promote responsible journalism. Even now that we
received the council’s notice, my conscience is clear,”
The council, a self-regulating body made up of publishers
and journalists, comments on good journalistic practices but has
no legal powers.
The state-owned nickel mine involved in the story,
Terrafame, said the order had been placed ahead of the
government's financing decision and it would have been awarded
even without extra funds.
(Reporting by Tuomas Forsell; Editing by Jussi Rosendahl and