Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948)
Within the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the General Assembly of the United Nations proclaimed the:
Right to freedom of opinion and expression: Article 19 Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966)
The resolution 2200A (XXI) of 16 December 1966 adopted by the General Assembly came into force on the 4th of November 1980 in France. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states:
1. Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference.
2. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.
3. The exercise of the rights provided for in paragraph 2 of this article carries with it special duties and responsibilities. It may therefore be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary:
(a) For respect of the rights or reputations of others;
(b) For the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals.
1. Any propaganda for war shall be prohibited by law.
2. Any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law.
Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms
Section 1:Rights and Freedoms
1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.
2. The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.
Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union
Title II: Freedoms
1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers.
2. The freedom and pluralism of the media shall be respected.
• Freedom of expression and information is guaranteed by Section 12 of the Constitution: Everyone has the freedom of expression. Freedom of expression entails the right to express, disseminate and receive information, opinions and other communications without prior prevention by anyone. More detailed provisions on the exercise of the freedom of expression are laid down by an Act.
• In the same section, the Constitution also establishes as a basic constitutional right, the principle of access to information: Documents and recordings in the possession of the authorities are public, unless their publication has for compelling reasons been specifically restricted by an Act. Everyone has the right of access to public documents and recordings.
• To strengthen this provision, Section 14 of the Constitution defines an obligation for the administrative authorities to promote openness: The public authorities shall promote the opportunities for the individual to participate in societal activity and to influence the decisions that concern him or her.
A wide legal framework is in place to regulate the press and communication. The Act on the Exercise of Freedom of Expression in Mass Media became effective in 2004 and holds as its objective, to outline the "exercise, in the media, of the freedom of expression enshrined in the Constitution". The act defines the duties of publishers and broadcasters, the right to reply and to correction and several coercive measures in case of violations. Thanks to this act, the “Right of Reply” has come into effect also for networks publications and broadcast programmes.
In terms of protecting journalist’s sources, a statutory law has been in place since 1966 which affords journalists the right to refuse to reveal a sources identity (unless a serious crime is involved). From 1967 onwards this included television journalists and most recently in 2004 legislators extended protection to sources for books and online.
To further reinforce the constitutional provision on the access to information, the Act on the Openness of Government Activities (1999) states that each person has the right to access any official document (electronic records included) in the public domain which is held by public authorities and bodies which carry out their work or exercise public authority.
The Act on Television and Radio Operations has the objective of promoting television and radio broadcasting. It defines the prerequisite for the broadcasting operations and their licensing by public authorities. The act also establishes a quota for programmes by independent producers (15% of transmission time). The Act on Yleisradio Oy, for its part, regulates the services of the Yleisradio Oy, the public broadcasting company, operating in television and radio sectors. It is provisioned to support democracy and provide a wide variety of information, views and debate and it is obliged to “to treat in its broadcasting Finnish and Swedish speaking citizens on equal grounds and to produce services in the Sámi, Romany and sign languages as well as, where applicable, also for other language groups in the country ”.Back to top