International Press Freedom Day is celebrated on Friday 3 May. The aim of the day is to remind everyone that freedom of the press and freedom of expression are the foundation of a democratic society and a free world, and that everyone has the right to correct information. 

The role of the media is to provide factual information. In this article, we explain how the Finnish Journalistic Guidelines and the editors' own ethical guidelines are reflected in the daily work of Sanoma's media. 

"I quote the Finnish Journalistic Guidelines out loud, if not daily then at least weekly. They are a central guideline for ethical news work and part of everyday management. We closely follow the decisions of the Council for Mass Medial, which interpretes the guidelines on compliant and decision level, and we also engage in passionate discussion about the decisions that guides our work," says Jussi Pullinen, Editor-in-Chief of Helsingin Sanomat.

In addition, Helsingin Sanomat has its own ethical guidelines, which complement the Journalistic Guidelines and are also used daily in the work.

"The last time they were used was in the coverage of the tragic school shooting in Vantaa, when complex issues relating to children and the public's need for information in our core area had to be resolved," says Pullinen.

In early 2024, Helsingin Sanomat published the main principles guiding its work and everyday journalistic practices also for the public (read the Helsingin Sanoma guidelines here in Finnish). The principles explain why the work is done and, for example, how published information is checked.

The Finnish Journalistic Guidelines are also visible in other Sanoma media on a daily basis: when scheduling interviews, collecting background information and fact-checking.

"Magazines often report about the world and its changes through personal stories. The interviewees open up about personal and sensitive issues, and are often dealing with the public for the first time. This requires the editorial team to constantly assess their responsibility. The Journalistic Guidelines are regularly discussed and ethical considerations in publishing decisions are increasingly present in everyday editorial work," says Päivi Virkkunen, editor-in-chief of a health magazine Hyvä Terveys.

Sanoma Lifestyle, responsible for Sanoma's magazine media, also has its own sustainability team and jointly created sustainability pledges. Their implementation is regularly monitored both within the teams and across the whole unit.

At Ilta-Sanomat, the requirements of the Journalistic Guidelines are regularly discussed and reminded in the daily work of the editorial staff.

"Discussions about journalism ethics are a daily occurrence and a normal, integral part of news work," says Ulla Appelsin, editor-in-chief of Ilta-Sanomat.

Ilta-Sanomat also has its own ethical guidelines, which are even more detailed than the Journalistic Guidelines. They relate to the daily life and practical situations of the editorial staff, and are currently for internal use only.

In the biggest newspaper in the Satakunta region, Satakunta Kansa, journalism is opened up in the regularly updated article (in Finnish) "Why is the name of the murder suspect not published? Why are candidates for election allowed to write in the paper?"

"Journalists also discuss with interviewees their rights to check the story and correct any factual errors. The journalist's role is not only to provide accurate information, but also to protect the interviewee where necessary. The less experienced the interviewee and the more difficult the case, the greater the responsibility of the journalist. Every newspaper and every journalist must be able to stand behind their own writing ethically, morally and within the law," says Anne Mäkelä, Editor-in-Chief of Satakunta Kansa.

Aamulehti has also publicly opened up to readers about its own way of doing things. There is an online article 35 questions and answers (in Finnish) about journalism, which sheds a lot of light on ethical issues. The questions also take into account a wide range of issues raised by readers.

"Journalism guidelines are always at the back of everything we do in our everyday work. They are the basis for the work of all journalists. They are discussed every day when we are planning stories. The new Journalistic Huidelines, which will come into force at the beginning of October, are also reviewed several times in advance by the editors," says Kari Ikonen, Editor-in-Chief of Aamulehti.

The new Journalistic Guidelines include four new sections on external funding, changes to a published story, dangerous news situations and the removal of editorial content from the web. The update is the most extensive since the 2005 update. The new guidelines will enter into force at the beginning of October.

The Journalistic Guidelines will continue to support the responsible use of freedom of expression and define good journalistic practice in Finland. Anyone can complain to the Council for Mass Media about a newspaper's practices if they wish. If the Council finds that a newspaper has violated the Journalistic Guidelines, the newspaper is obliged to publish the Council's decision.

In Finland, journalistic ethics are overseen by the independent media self-regulatory body Council for Mass Media (CMM), which interprets good journalistic practice and supervises journalists' sourcing of information for the mass media in accordance with the generally accepted Journalistic Guidelines.

Every year, the Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index measures press freedom in 180 countries and regions.

In the Press Freedom Index published on Friday 3 May, Finland is still in fifth place. The top three countries in the index are Norway, Sweden and Denmark, with the Netherlands in fourth place. Estonia is in sixth place.

In the annual Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index each country's ranking  is based on expert assessments in five different areas. Learn more about the Reporters Without Borders press release (in Finnish). 

Press Freedom Day was celebrated for the first time on 3 May 1994. The background is the Windhoek Declaration adopted in Namibia on 3 May 1991, which defended an independent and pluralistic press. Two years later, at the initiative of UNESCO, the UN General Assembly declared the third day of May as World Press Freedom Day

Learn more about Sanoma's work to for sustainable media here.