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A reprimand issued to the ministry of finance for the treatment of a journalist

Parliamentary Ombudsman Petri Jääskeläinen reprimands the Ministry of Finance and its Communications Director in his decision on a complaint filed by a journalist.

The journalist had asked the Parliamentary Ombudsman to investigate if the Ministry of Finance had acted correctly when refusing to grant him interviews, not giving him access to an information meeting for journalists organised by the ministry, and considering that he had breached good journalistic practice. The journalist also criticised the fact that photographing the public servants who participated in the event and quoting them had been prohibited.

Access to information event for journalists

The journalist had originally been denied access to the event because, in the ministry's opinion, he had acted inappropriately in connection with certain prior interviews.

The Parliamentary Ombudsman finds that denying the complainant access to the event was a breach of the principles of equality and proportionality that are part of good governance. Incidents that had mainly taken place a number of years ago and that were not relevant to this event had been used as a justification for denying access.

Restrictions on photography and quotations

The Ombudsman notes that from the perspective of freedom of speech and the principle of proportionality that are part of good governance, restrictions on taking photographs and quoting the speakers at information events should be as relaxed as possible. The ministry should consider what types of restrictions are necessary at each individual event.

Good journalistic practice

The management of the Ministry of Finance had refused to give the journalist interviews. The ministry had spread information on this refusal and the journalist's prior actions in an internal notice.

The Ombudsman finds that the statement made by the ministry's management in its notice, according to which the journalist had breached good journalistic practice, was inappropriate. Additionally, the Ombudsman considers it unfitting for a public servant that the Communications Director had, based on a personal assessment, publicly branded the actions of an individual journalist as a breach of a certain section in the Guidelines for journalists.

The full text of Parliamentary Ombudsman Petri Jääskeläinen's decision, record no 4663/4/15, was published on the Parliamentary Ombudsman's website at http://www.oikeusasiamies.fi/

Further information is available from Senior Legal Adviser Mikko Sarja, tel. +358 (0)9 432 3364.