Deputy-Ombudsman Jussi Pajuoja has in two of his recent decisions pointed to the caution that authorities must observe in their provision of information and the tact that they must reveal in certain situations.
The Deputy-Ombudsman decided on his own initiative to investigate a case in which a police superintendent had spoken on the phone to a newspaper reporter about a search for a prisoner and referred to information that he had received from the media about the prisoner’s state of health.
The Deputy-Ombudsman emphasises the importance of caution especially when what is involved is information of which the authority is aware, but is required to be kept confidential and the authority must not publicise. An authority can indirectly confirm an item of information that has appeared in the media even if only by repeating it.
There was also a ground in the case to criticise the fact that the expected life span of a sick person had been speculated on in public, something that in the Deputy-Ombudsman’s opinion was conducive to adding to his and his relatives’ suffering.
Deputy-Ombudsman Pajuoja investigated the case on his own initiative based on newspaper reports.
In the other case, a complaint had been made to the Ombudsman that in a TV programme describing police work a police officer had commented on camera that the deceased had probably died of alcohol.
The Deputy-Ombudsman pointed out that the principle of least harm that must be observed in police work and the prohibition on causing unnecessary harm in their provision of information called for caution when assessing the cause of death.
Also tact and the treatment worthy of human dignity that the Constitution requires extend their effects further than only to people who are alive. The Deputy-Ombudsman emphasises that an authority must refrain from public statements that could have a negative impact on the memory of a deceased person or that person’s relatives.
Additional info will be provided by Legal Adviser Mikko Eteläpää, tel. + 358(0)9 4321.