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Home NATIONALFreedom of expression is essence of democratic societies: Niinistö
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Wed, 04 May, 2016 12:13:26 AM
World Press Freedom Day observed
Transparency, freedom of expression means to fight corruption: PM
FTimes-STT Report, May 4
 
Prime Minister Juha Sipilä, Former President Tarja Halonen and UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova at a programme on World Press Freedom Day at Finlandia Hall on Tuesday. Photo Lehtikuva.
President Sauli Niinistö and Prime Minister Juha Sipilä on Tuesday emphasized on ensuring the freedom of expression to ensure democratic sprit of the society and fight against corrup-tions.
 
Speaking on the World Press Freedom Day, they also underscored that the responsibilities and freedom should go together to uphold transparency in every sector.
 
Prime Minister Juha Sipilä said that transparency and freedom of expression are the best means to fight corruption. 
 
“Finland is one of the least corrupt countries in the world and this correlates, I believe, with the high level of freedom of the press in our society,” said the Prime Minister at the inaugural ceremony of the World Press Freedom Day at Finlandia Hall in Helsinki.    
 
He pointed out that good governance means openness and transparency, and citizens must demand it. Citizens, politicians and public authorities alike have an interest in an independent and professional media. We need good journalism that is based on facts and accuracy.
 
 “We are all aware that both traditional media and social media are being used today to spread disinformation as well. The best way to fight against this is to ensure that the condi-tions under which media professionals operate allow for diverse and independent high-quality communications,” said Sipilä, adding that enhancing media literacy skills is also important. 
 
President Sauli Niinistö. File Photo Lehtikuva.
“Hosting this event in 2016 has a very special meaning for us Finns. This year, we, together with Sweden, are celebrating the 250th anniversary of our Freedom of the Press Act. Issued in 1766, on the initiative of the Finnish parliamentarian Chydenius, it was the first-ever act on freedom of information in the world,” he said.
 
This freedom of information act was also the most liberal one of its time, and it abolished po-litical censorship and made it permissible to engage in political debate, including criticism of ruling groups. It also guaranteed public access to official documents. 
 
The Prime Minister pointed out that for the past five years Finland has been ranked first in the World Press Freedom Index released by ‘Reporters without Borders’. 
 
According to the index, freedom of the press in Finland is based on strong legal foundations that are supported by a genuine culture of the rights of the individual.
 
“We believe this is the result of our long traditions as an open society. It also has to do with access to public information, a high-level of source protection, fast internet connections, as well as world-class education and a public library network that together promote media liter-acy,” said Sipilä.
 
The theme of this year’s event is ‘Access to Information and Fundamental Freedoms – This Is Your Right’.
 
And indeed it is. Journalists are key actors when it comes to protecting and promoting these rights, he added.
 
President Sauli Niinistö underscored the significance of freedom of expression saying it is the essence of democratic societies.
 
The president attended the international World Press Freedom Day award ceremony in Hel-sinki. 
 
According to Niinistö, Freedom of expression, like other forms of freedom comes along with responsibility.
 
Freedom of expression should not be abused and neither should hate speech be tolerated, the President said.
 
The World Press Freedom Day event organised in Helsinki on Monday and Tuesday gathered more than 1,100 journalists and media professionals from over a hundred countries.
 
The theme of the event was centred on the significance of freedom of expression as well as government responsibility to uphold and respect freedom of expression.
 
The international World Press Freedom Day was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in 1993 following an initiative by United Nations Educations, Scientific and Cultural Organiza-tion (UNESCO).
 
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