The Future of Freedom of Expression
The Embassy of Finland, The Finnish Institute in London, Anders Chydenius Foundation and the Reuters Institute co-hosted a seminar on freedom of expression at the Finnish Ambassador’s Residence in London on the 7th of April. At the event professional reporters, writers and academics discussed current issues and the changing landscape of freedom of expression.
Speakers included Mr Pekka Hallberg, rule of law expert and former president of the supreme administrative court of Finland, Ms Sirpa Kähkönen, author and a chairperson of Finnish PEN, Mr John Lloyd, co-founder of the Reuters Institute and contributing editor for the Financial Times, and Mr Niklas Meltio, award-winning photojournalist.
Author Sirpa Kähkönen emphasized the role of civil society in guaranteeing freedom of expression. She stated that emancipatory social movements alongside with the more centrally-led, paternalist nation-building project, created together one strong pillar for the Finnish idea of freedom of expression: reverence for education and especially for reading and writing.
”It was considered to be in everybody’s interest to teach reading and writing to boys and girls as well as to servants and their masters. Emancipatory movemets also contributed to the creation of a civil society by teaching their followers how to give speeches, how to keep minutes in meetings and how to discuss and debate in a constructive manner. Most importantly, people’s movements created a huge amount of newspapers and magazines”, Kähkönen stated.
A Finnish photojournalist Niklas Meltio is known especially from his coverage of the conflict in Syria. According to him freedom of expression has a huge impact on his work in many stages.
“First of all, doing this kind of a job actually derives from the fact that freedom of expression is so often restricted. I have to find creative solutions to get into places where I’m not really wanted in order to gain people's trust and tell their stories. The result is not always the picture they themselves would like to present. My job is to depict the story as truthfully as possible. It’s not always an objective story but rather my personal view on what has happened. It is my personal analysis on the state of affairs, Meltio said.
Finland is hosting the World Press Freedom Day in Helsinki on 2.-5. May together with Unesco (The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization). The event will be held at Finlandia Hall.