Ending of criminal investigation does not warrant measures
Ombudsman Riitta-Leena Paunio finds that the Finnish Broadcasting Company (YLE) acted within the Election Act and exercised the discretionary power that the Act gives it when it made its arrangements for programmes covering the general election in 2007.
A small political party that is not represented in the national parliament, the Eduskunta, had asked the police to investigate whether the Director-General of YLE had been guilty of criminal discrimination when the participation of small parties in the 2007 election programmes was decided on. The police took the view that no crime had been committed and ended their investigation. The party complained to the Ombudsman about this.
The Ombudsman points out that YLE is required to observe impartiality in its operations. However, the Election Act does allow it to take programming-related aspects into consideration in safeguarding even-handed treatment of political parties when election programmes are made. When it was deliberating this provision, the Eduskunta's Constitutional Law Committee pointed out that at least the size of a party and its parliamentary status could be taken into consideration as programming-related aspects.
The Ombudsman points out that placing someone in an unequal or an essentially inferior position is discrimination in the meaning of the Penal Code. In the programmes covering the 2007 general election, parties that were not represented in the Eduskunta had been able to present their views in an election debate arranged for small parties on the TV1 television channel, an interview with party chairpersons on the Radio Suomi radio channel and in the "election exam" programmes broadcast by regional radio stations. In addition, the views of small parties had been highlighted in other news and current affairs programmes and their chairpersons had been accorded the opportunity to make statements in video streams posted on YLE's election web pages.
The Ombudsman finds that the police did not therefore act unlawfully when they decided to end the criminal investigation that they had launched in response to the complaint by the small party.
The party had additionally asked the police to investigate whether discrimination had occurred in the payment of election subsidies. These subsidies had been paid to the parties represented in the Eduskunta in proportion to the number of seats they held. Subsidies had not been paid to parties without Eduskunta seats.
The Ombudsman points out that the police do not have power to examine a decision concerning an appropriation to be included in the budget which the Eduskunta had made in its capacity as the supreme organ of state. Thus the police's decision to end the investigation did not warrant measures on the part of the Ombudsman in this respect, either.
Additional information will be provided by Secretary-General Jussi Pajuoja, tel. +358 (0)9 432 3375.