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A municipality violated a teacher’s freedom of speech

According to Parliamentary Ombudsman Petri Jääskeläinen, a municipality violated a teacher’s freedom of speech by issuing a verbal reprimand in relation to a blog post by the teacher. In the employer’s opinion, a section of the post contained material that was offensive about the employer.

According to the Ombudsman, the main focuses of the post were the size of classes and the potential impact of money-saving measures on class sizes. As such, the post was a matter of public interest. The threshold for intervening in such discussion is high, and when a party evaluates individual sections of a post, the party must take into consideration the significance of the matter covered by the post as a whole. As a civil servant, the complainant was, in principle, entitled to engage in such discussion. This case also required the complainant’s role as a member of the municipal council and municipal government to be taken into account because political opinions are a core consideration of freedom of speech. According to the Ombudsman, the section of the post for which the reprimand was issued fell within the scope of freedom of speech.

According to the Ombudsman, the civil servant’s freedom of speech was not adequately considered when the reprimand was issued. In addition, the special characteristics of the complainant’s dual role as a teacher and a politician and the opinions expressed in political activity were not given sufficient consideration.

Decision 1307/2018 by Parliamentary Ombudsman Petri Jääskeläinen is available in full in Finnish on the Ombudsman’s website www.oikeusasiamies.fi.

For more information, please contact Principal Legal Adviser Mikko Sarja, tel. + 358 9 432 3364.