Mind Over Media in EU is a welcomed addition to the ongoing public debate on journalistic autonomy and the impact media has on people in a nation where freedom of press is open, trustworthy and founded on high-quality education. The Finnish Society on Media Education is representing Finland in the Mind over Media in EU project. The organization, founded in 2005, informs and trains about media educational issues in Finland and builds bridges between different fields, studies, professionals and practices.
Teaching propaganda in a Finnish context contributes to an overall insight into the influence media has on its citizens, on attitudes, civic values and behavior. The Mind Over Media in EU project also serves an important role in teaching on identity building and self-brand in a digitalized social era, which includes the meaning of critical reflection on a daily basis. The challenge though, is revealing propaganda and media
impact in campaigns and advertising and looking closer at the more sophisticated morals of media agents and influencers.
In Finland, we have enjoyed being a proud nation of a transparent public dialogue and journalistic processes, thanks to Yle, one big influencer in our unique media sector. Yle is a state-owned public broadcasting institution, with the significant responsibility of engaging citizens to contribute to the open public debate, by informing truthful and trustworthy information. Besides supporting democracy on a broad arena, Yle needs to keep up its educational and equal values and maintain Finnish culture by producing programs on both national languages (Finnish and Swedish) as well as for the minority groups (Sami, Romani). The list goes on, so when the spotlight was on Yle due to a journalistic crises last year it surely enhanced the public opinion on freedom of the press.
Finland’s rankings in the latest report of freedom of the press from 2017 (Reporters Without Borders) made a drop from being in the top three (first place for five proud years) to 4th place in recent measurements, which ignited speculations on where we stand today. Reporters Without Borders index exclusively measures freedom of speech by measuring the autonomy not only journalists, but all media organizations, bloggers and YouTubers have to act with on a global arena. It also looks at to which extent national governments respect that freedom. The index is therefore focusing on the amount of freedom, not regarding the journalistic quality in itself. This particular change in the rankings led to discussion on accountability and made us take a deeper look at media ethics and the power of the public opinion.
It is naturally exciting to explore reasons to threats against democratic processes – the so called Sipilägate was no exception, and dominated the Finnish news coverage for a couple of months. Finland’s prime minister Juha Sipilä allegedly demanded Yle to modify a coverage on him in 2017, evidences shown through email conversations between the prime minister and the journalists involved. In addition to a decreased reliability of state authority, it resulted in the resignation of two experienced journalists. The resignations
made it all more remarkable; who should carry the responsibility of truthful reporting on internal politics, if not a people-owned institution itself? And which way do we go now, when our state-owned broadcasting institutions’ reliability is questioned? All fingers pointed to the crisis being one of the main reasons to Finland dropping in the RWB ranking and it went from being a national issue to being recognized in a global
The situation in Finland is still relatively good; the public trusts the news and printed media (around 70% is a high number in the era of social media) and we have fourth most newspapers in the world in relation to the population . The crises at Yle generates, if anything, that the citizens know to demand even more truthful, objective news reporting, which in turn pressures journalists to achieve more fair work ethics. Promoting abilities to interpret and to produce different media as well as teaching about communication technologies, expands such media competence and supports individuals’ involvement in democratic processes.
It is said that people truly understand freedom of speech when it’s being threatened. Last year’s happenings conclude in an interesting momentum to examine the power of media, governmental influence and media culture in Finland. We gladly conclude this year with participating in the Mind Over Media project, as it motivates to increased knowledge throughout our educational system.
Lastly, wise words expressed by Georg Henrik von Wright, one of the most known philosophers in Finland: “Control and governance of humans in a large scale is only possible when there is a lack of direct confrontation between the governing and the governed.” (own translation). Let’s investigate in media impacts today – the good and the bad – with an attentive eye.
Greetings from the warm north,
Finnish Society on Media Education
Helsinki, June 2018