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Jurisdictions Surveyed: Brazil | Finland | Morocco | Tunisia
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Finland

Civic space protections, such as the right to access government information, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, freedom of association, the right to privacy and data protection, and freedom of the press are protected in Finland’s Constitution, as well as in Finnish national law. Upholding these freedoms is also part of Finland’s obligation as a European Union (EU) member state, and as a State party to the European Convention on Human Rights. Access to the internet is guaranteed by law, albeit not in Finland’s Constitution. The Finnish Constitution also protects against discrimination based on sex, age, origin, language, religion conviction, opinion, health, disability, or “any other reason relating to his or her person.”

The Constitution applies to anyone present in Finland, as well as all Finnish citizens and residents of Finland not present in Finland. The rights are not absolute, but any exceptions or exemptions must be set out in law. For example, the right to access government information does not include a right to access documents that are protected by secrecy laws, the right to freedom of expression exempts hate speech, the right to assembly can be limited for the sake of health or security, the freedom of association does not include the right to form militias, the right of privacy can be limited for the purpose of investigating certain crimes, and the right to an open internet may be limited in order to preserve network security.

Finland’s Supreme Court and the European Court of Human Rights have ruled on several limitations to constitutionally protected freedoms. The legal requirement for all exemptions and exceptions is that they are proportional and prescribed by law; that the laws are precise and carefully defined; and that the limitations are acceptable and do not derogate from the essence of a fundamental freedom or right, constitute an adequate legal protection, and are consistent with Finland’s human rights obligations. Often, limitations to one constitutionally protected right are the result of another constitutionally protected right. For instance, the right to freedom of expression is limited by the right to privacy.

The Constitution has only been amended once since 2017, on the topic of protection of privacy. Most other laws regulating limits to the constitutional freedoms have also remained largely the same since 2017. The Law on Coercive Measures, which includes provisions that limit the right to privacy, has seen the most revisions, with 10 amendments during the last three years. Amending the Constitution requires that special voting rules be adhered to, including that Parliament vote on the amendment before and after a general election, and that the final vote be approved by a two-thirds majority.

Changes to EU law, including the proposed terrorism filter, also apply in Finland but EU developments are not extensively covered in this report.             

I. Introduction

Under Finland’s Constitution,[1] several rights and freedoms that may be considered as necessary for citizens and civil society to access information, speak, associate, organize and participate in public life are protected, including: access to governmental information,[2] freedom of expression,[3] freedom of assembly,[4] freedom of association,[5] the right to privacy and data protection,[6] and press freedom protections.[7] The Constitution does not include an explicit provision protecting an open internet.

In 1999, the four constitutional Finnish texts were consolidated into one Finland Constitution, replacing Regeringsformen, Riksdagsordningen, Lag angående rätt för riksdagen att granska legaliteten av medlemmarna av statsrådet och justitiekanslerns ämbetsåtgärder, and Lag om riksrätt.[8] Since then, the Constitution has been amended four times: in 2007 (twice), 2012, and 2018.[9] The Constitution of 1999 clarified that Finland is bound by international treaties pertaining to human rights, including the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).[10] In addition, Finland is a member of the European Union (EU) and bound by the fundamental rights and freedoms guaranteed in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU.[11] Both the ECHR and the Charter on Fundamental Rights of the European Union include rights that are also found in Finland’s Constitution.[12] Thus, decisions about what constitutes a constitutionally protected right are made by Finland’s Supreme Court, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), and the European Court of Justice.

All exceptions and exemptions to the constitutional rights must be proportional and be prescribed in law.[13] The general conditions for limiting fundamental freedoms require that such limitations are prescribed by law; that the prescribing laws are precise and carefully defined; and that the limitations are acceptable, proportional, and do not derogate from the essence of a fundamental freedom or right, constitute an adequate legal protection, and are consistent with Finland’s human rights obligations.[14] The aim of these qualified restrictions on exceptions and exemptions is to limit them to those that are strictly necessary.[15] 

All amendments to the Constitution must be adopted in the following manner:[16]

[The] proposal on the enactment, amendment, or repeal of the Constitution or limited exceptions to the Constitution shall during the second reading with a majority of the votes be approved to be left in abeyance until the first meeting of the Parliament that is held following the next upcoming national election to Parliament. The proposal shall then, after each respective committee has issued its report on the matter, be approved unchanged in plenum in one meeting by a decision approved by at least two thirds of the votes cast.  

The proposal may be declared urgent by a decision approved by at least five sixths of the votes cast. The proposal is then not left in abeyance but may be voted on and passed with at least two thirds of the votes cast.[17]

II. Constitutional and Legally Protected Freedoms

A. Access to Government Information

1. Scope

Finland first enjoyed legally protected access to government documents by adoption of a Press Freedom Act in 1766, when Finland was part of Sweden.[18] Article 10 of that act provided for access to public archives.[19]

Today, Finland’s Constitution guarantees access to government information in article 12, which is also the freedom of expression clause.[20] The right to government information, which is further regulated in law, includes a right to access all information, regardless of the type of media that it is contained in, when held by the government and its agencies and applies to anyone present in Finland.[21] Thus, Finnish citizens, Finnish residents, and even tourists with a legitimate purpose have a right to access public information.[22] Specifically, article 12 paragraph 2 of the Constitution states: “Documents and recordings that are held by government agencies are public, unless limited by compelling reasons through law. Everyone has a right to access public documents and recordings.”[23]

Access to government information is further regulated by the Law on Transparency of Government Activity.[24] It provides that, as a general principle, every government document is public, unless otherwise protected by secrecy law.[25] For the purpose of access to information, government agencies include: state administrative authorities and other state offices and institutions, courts and other judicial law institutions, state business offices, municipal authorities, the Bank of Finland, and the Finnish Financial Supervisory Authority as well as the Kela (Finland’s social security administration) and other independent public institutions, agencies, and institutions of the Parliament, authorities of the province Åland when the province performs tasks that fall on the national authorities, committees, delegations, commissions, working groups, administrators and auditors in municipalities and joint municipalities as well as other comparable bodies that, as provided for by law, regulation, or other administrative decision have been created to independently perform a delegated task.[26]

2. Exceptions and Exemptions

A number of government documents are covered by secrecy laws, and thus are not public, including: documents covered by secrecy (Handlingssekretess), documents covered by a duty of confidentiality and prohibition on exploitation (Tystnadsplikt och förbud mot utnyttjande), and special government documents covered by secrecy (Sekretessbelagda myndighetshandlingar).[27] Government documents covered by secrecy are the most broadly defined exception, with more than 30 enumerated grounds for secrecy.[28]

In addition, the government may collect fees to make copies of public documents and may refuse to copy public documents without first collecting such fees.[29]

3. Recent Amendments

The access to information provision of the Finnish Constitution has not been amended since the 1999 constitutional overhaul. The Law on Transparency of Government Activity has been amended several times since 1999, with six amendments entering into force on or after January 1, 2017.[30] The most recent amendment (622/2020) entered into force on September 1, 2020.[31] The amendment added to the types of documents that are presumed to be covered by secrecy laws, and thus are not public, adding new paragraphs 5, 24 and 31 c, as follows:

5) documents that includes information on the Police, Border Patrol, Customs Control, Prison Guard Agencies and Migration Agency’s tactical and technical methods and plans, if the supply of the information from the documents would; jeopardize prevention and investigation of crimes, maintaining of public order and security or the security at a penitentiary, or the reliability of the Migration Agency’s investigation on an alien.

24) documents concerning the need of international protection, the conditions for an alien’s entry and residence in the country or the basis for them or the acquisition or loss of Finnish citizenship or the decision on citizenship status, if it is not obvious that the delivery of the information contained within will not jeopardize the safety for the party or the family of the party,

31 c) documents that concern an alien who is present in Finland, if there are grounds to suspect that the delivery of the information of the documents jeopardizes the safety of the party or the party’s next of kin.[32]

Before 2020, the Law on Transparency of Government Activity was amended twice in 2019, with both amendments taking effect on January 1, 2020.[33] These amendments related to the transfer of public documents between government agencies.[34] Amendment (907/2019) amended provisions 2, 3, 15, 16, 25, and 36 on transfer of public documents.[35] Amendment 277/2019 amended provision 24 relating to intra-government agency transfer of information pertaining to criminal information on inmates as well as those prosecuted.[36] Amendment 1400/2016 amended provision 11 on the right to public information during public procurements, amendment 808/2017 amended provision 24 on the secrecy of certain psychological evaluations related to the judiciary, and amendment 604/2018 amended provisions 11, 24, and 26 related to accessing public information related to public procurements.[37]

B. Freedom of Expression

1. Scope

The right to freedom of expression is guaranteed in article 12 of the Finnish Constitution:[38]

Everyone as a right to freedom of expression. The right to freedom of expression includes the right to provide, disseminate, and receive information, opinions, and other messages without someone’s prior censorship. Additional rules on freedom of expression are issued in law. Rules on limitations with regard to picture programs that are necessary to protect children are issued by law.[39]

As a State-party to the ECHR, Finland is also bound to ensure protection of the right to freedom of expression as stated in article 10 of the ECHR, specifically:

Freedom of expression

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.[40]

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has, on a number of occasions, found Finland in violation of Article 10. For example, Finland has lost cases before the ECtHR for punishing speech too harshly, including with prison sentences.[41] In Nikula v. Finland, the Court found that the conviction of Anne Nikula, a lawyer convicted for defamation for criticizing a prosecutor for a decision in a criminal proceeding in which the lawyer was representing one of the defendants, violated Article 10 of the Convention. According to the ECtHR, the restriction on the lawyer’s freedom of speech had a potential chilling effect and there was a lack of “pressing social need.”[42]

In Goussev and Marenk v. Finland,[43] the Court held that the seizure of documents from the plaintiffs, who were suspected of defamation, during a search conducted for investigation of another crime violated article 10 of the Convention because the interference was not deemed to be “prescribed by law.”[44] Following the ruling, Finland has enacted the Act of Exercise of Freedom of Expression in the Mass Media to clarify certain provisions.[45]

The ECtHR found no violation of article 10 of the Convention in Pentikäinen v Finland.[46] The Court assessed whether the fact that a press photographer reporting on a demonstration was apprehended, placed in police custody, and subsequently convicted for disobeying the police violated article 10 of the Convention. The photographer had not been prevented from reporting on the event, and disobeyed the police’s order by staying with the demonstrators, who had been ordered to disperse, instead of reporting from a designated press area. Because it was unclear whether the photographer had identified himself properly as a member of the press and because the photographer was convicted without penalty, the ECtHR (Grand Chamber) found there had been a “fair balance” of competing interests and, thus, no violation of the Convention.[47]

2. Exceptions and Exemptions

a. Secrecy Laws and Legally Mandated Duty of Confidentiality

Certain individuals may not be able to exercise their freedom of expression freely, for instance, a number of professions are bound by secrecy and a legally mandated duty of confidentiality, including doctors,[48] nurses,[49] lawyers,[50] clergy,[51] police,[52] and civil servants and officials.[53]

b. Libel and Defamation

The right to freedom of expression does not include speech that is designated in law as illegal.[54] This includes libel and defamatory speech (Om kränkning av integritet och frid samt om ärekränkning) such as: harassing communications (Brott mot kommunikationsfrid),[55] dissemination of information violating personal privacy (Spridande av information som kränker privatlivet),[56] aggravated dissemination of information that violates the right to privacy (Grovt spridande av information som kränker privatlivet),[57] defamation,[58] and “aggravated defamation.”[59] Freedom of expression is also limited by public order violations,[60] such as breach of the sanctity of religion (Brott mot trosfrid).[61]

Finland criminalizes defamation and aggravated defamation.[62] Aggravated defamation occurs when the defamation causes great suffering or “especially great harm.”[63] Defamation is punishable with monetary fines, and aggravated defamation with up to two years of imprisonment.[64] The legislation is “medium neutral,” meaning defamation may occur either verbally, in print, through broadcasts, or online.[65]

c. Hate Speech and Incitement to Commit Criminal Acts

Moreover, freedom of expression does not extend to acts that constitute “hate speech” (hets mot folkgrupp, literally, “agitation against an ethnic group”) and other hate crimes (hatbrott).[66] For example, in 2012, a politician was found guilty of derogatory writings about Islam and Somali nationals, resulting in monetary fines.[67] A monetary fine is the minimum sentence issued for hate speech, which carries a maximum sentence of two years of imprisonment.[68]  Speech that qualifies as an “aggravated agitation against an ethnic group” crime carries a minimum sentence of four months of imprisonment and a maximum sentence of four years of imprisonment.[69] Finnish courts have so far not tried cases with hateful speech targeted against the majority population. Recently, the national prosecutor has been reluctant to prosecute members of Parliament for defamatory language used against journalists or minority groups, if used in connection with a political topic.[70]

Freedom of expression also does not protect incitement to criminal acts.[71] Thus, speech that incites others to commit criminal acts, including violence, when uttered in a mass gathering, in print, or online, may result in monetary fines or no more than two years of imprisonment.[72]

d. Contractual Agreement and Trade Secrets

Employees can voluntarily limit their right to free speech, even when their profession would not otherwise legally mandate them to secrecy. Business secrets and trade secrets are automatically secrets by nature of the employment relationship.[73] However, the dissemination of information covered by trade secret protections if done in the public interest in order to reveal wrongdoings or unlawful activity, or if it otherwise does not exceed what may be accepted as an exercise of one’s freedom of expression, is permissible. [74]

3. Recent Amendments

Article 12 of the Constitution has not been amended within the three last years.[75] The EU is currently considering adding a legal requirement that hosting services providers employ a “terrorism filter” to limit the dissemination of terrorism content online. [76] Article 4 of the proposal includes a requirement that hosting service providers remove or disable access to terrorism content within one hour of receipt of a removal order by the competent national authority.[77] The Government (Statsrådet) reported to the Parliament on the matter,[78] noting that the proposed changes might necessitate changes to Finnish national law.[79] For example, Finland would have to pass a law authorizing administrative sanctions, and designate a supervisory authority.[80]

C. Freedom of Assembly and Freedom of Association

1. Scope

Article 13 of Finland’s Constitution guarantees freedom of assembly and freedom of association for anyone present in Finland.[81] Specifically:

Everyone has a right to arrange gatherings and demonstrations as well as participate in such events.  

Everyone has a right to freedom of association. The right to freedom of association includes a right to, without a prior permit, form associations, belong to or not belong to associations, and participate in the associations’ activities. The freedom of labor associations and the freedom to organize in order to monitor other interests are also ensured.

Additional provisions on the freedom of assembly and the freedom of association are provided in law.[82]

In addition, the right to freedom of movement is guaranteed in article 9 of the Constitution.[83]

The right to assembly is further regulated in the Act on Assemblies.[84] A fundamental principle is that assemblies and public events must be:[85]

organized under peaceful practices in order for the participant’s or outsiders’ safety not to be jeopardized or their rights violated. When such events are organized, one must ensure that the assembly does not cause considerable drawbacks for the environment.

When a public assembly or a public event is organized, no one may, without acceptable reasons, be put in an unequal position because of any reason attributable to his or her person.[86]

It is the responsibility of the public (police and municipality) to ensure that such meetings can occur in a safe manner.[87]

2. Exceptions and Exemptions to Freedom of Assembly

Exemptions to the right of freedom of assembly can be found in law, including the Public Ordinance Law,[88] the Contagious Disease Act,[89] the Emergency Preparedness Law,[90] and the Criminal Code.[91] For example, the Public Ordinance Law grants police the right to limit the right to assemble when such assembly would be dangerous for traffic, health, or other reasons (Äventyrande av ordning och säkerhet samt orsakande av störning).[92] The law also prohibits performance in public spaces, if it violates the law, or if it causes health risks, damage to property or considerable disruption of the public order.[93]

Finland has limited the freedom of movement (constitutionally protected in article 9), the freedom of assembly (constitutionally protected in article 10), and other freedoms during the COVID-19 pandemic.[94]

3. Exceptions and Exemptions to Freedom of Association

The freedom of association may be limited by law.[95] Additional requirements and limitations for when an association may be formed are set forth in the Finnish Association Act,[96] which requires that:

  • The association cannot ”violate law or good practice” (art. 1).
  • Military groups, such as armed militias, are prohibited (art. 3).
  • Groups that include weapons training and that are not solely for hunting require prior approval (art. 4).
  • Members always have a right to leave the association (art. 13).
  • An association may be dissolved when it violates the law, when the association violates its own bylaws, or when it violates permits obtained (such as for weapons) (art. 43).

4. Recent Amendments

There have been no amendments to article 13 of Finland’s Constitution during the three most recent years.[97] The Finnish Associations Act was most amended in 2017,[98] and again in 2020.[99] This most recent update to the Act was on how to properly maintain membership records in light of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)[100] and the Data Protection Act.[101]

D. Right to Privacy and Data Protection

1. Scope

Finland’s Constitution guarantees the right to privacy to everyone present in Finland in article 10.[102] In addition, as mentioned above, Finland is bound by the ECHR.[103] The ECHR guarantees the right to privacy in article 8.[104] Specifically, article 10 of Finland’s Constitution provides that:

Everyone is guaranteed a right to privacy, honor and sanctity of the home. More detailed provisions on the protection of personal information is issued in law. 

The secrecy of correspondence, telephony and other confidential communications is inviolable.

Measures that limit the sanctity of the home may be prescribed through legislation if necessary to guarantee the fundamental freedoms and rights or to investigate crimes. (5.10.2018/817).[105]

Both Finland’s Supreme Court and the ECtHR have weighed in on what constitutes privacy. For example, in a 2018 decision, Finland’s Supreme Court found that the publication on Facebook of a picture of a man who was convicted of sexual assault of a child violated the right to privacy, resulting in monetary fines.[106] In a 2019 Supreme Court decision, the publication of a picture and name of a man together with a description of him as an internet snitch and protector of pedophiles, insinuating that the man himself was a pedophile, was deemed a violation of privacy and resulted in the issuance of daily fines.[107] In 2019, the Supreme Court held that a petitioner’s right to request the deletion of allegedly unlawful materials online (under Section 23 of the Act on Freedom of Expression in Mass Communications) was independent of the prosecutor’s decision to make such a request or to discontinue the investigation.[108] In HD 2009:3, the Supreme Court upheld the verdict of a lower court in which a father and his acquaintance were convicted of disseminating information that violated personal privacy by publishing a video online showing his children being taken into custody by the social services.[109]

Finland is bound by ECtHR rulings, however, only verdicts against Finland are directly binding.[110] The ECtHR found Finland in violation of article 8 of the ECHR in 2013 when it upheld a strict deadline for applying for a paternity determination and in 2014 when it forced an inmate to wear an “observation jumpsuit,” which wearers cannot take off themselves, when in isolation.[111] In 2008, Finland was found to have violated article 8 of ECHR in two cases: In K.U. v Finland,[112] the ECtHR found that Finland had violated its positive obligation to offer a criminal law remedy against the offender, which was contrary to the right to private life. In the case, a stranger posted a profile of a boy who was 12 years of age on a dating site but the boy had no criminal law remedy against the offender.[113] In I. v. Finland, the ECtHR found that Finland violated the right to a private life under article 8 when an HIV-positive person had not received sufficient protection of the person’s medical records.[114]

As a member of the European Union, Finland is bound by the GDPR. Finland’s Office of the Data Protection Ombudsman oversees compliance with the GDPR,[115] and it has issued several orders in 2020.[116] For example, in May, it imposed an administrative fine for deficiencies in personal data processing.[117] Also in May, it ordered Google to delete search results that included individuals who had been convicted of criminal offenses.[118] In June, it held that personal identity codes (similar to social security numbers) cannot be used on invoices.[119] In addition to the GDPR, which applies directly in Finland, Finland has adopted the Data Protection Act.[120]

2. Exceptions and Exemptions

Article 10 of the Constitution states that exceptions and exemptions to the right of privacy may be prescribed in law for the purpose of ensuring other constitutional rights or to investigate crimes.[121] Specifically:

it may be prescribed in law regarding such limitations in the secrecy of communications that are necessary during the investigation of crimes that jeopardize the individual’s or the society’s safety or the sanctity of the home, during trial, at safety controls and during detention as well as to collect information on military activity or such other activity that seriously threatens the national security.[122]

Thus, Finland allows limits on the right to a private life in order to apply certain coercive measures, as needed, to investigate and prosecute crimes.[123] For example, the Act on Coercive Measures allows for electronic surveillance, and travel restrictions, when a person is a suspect in a crime that punishable by at least one year of imprisonment.[124] In contrast, home surveillance may only be used for suspects in specified serious crimes that include genocide, sexual abuse of children, and terrorism.[125] Use of any coercive measure requires that the measure be in proportion with the severity of the crime. Whether the suspect’s or another person’s rights would be violated, and whether there are other material circumstances, must be evaluated before applying coercive measures. The least invasive coercive measure must always be used first.[126]

As provided for in the Act on Electronic Communication Services, traffic data must be retained for six to 12 months depending on the means of communication, but may only be accessed in a limited number of enumerated instances, including when investigating upon reasonable suspicion certain crimes in accordance with the Act on Coercive Measures.[127]

3. Recent Amendments

The privacy protection provision (article 10) in the Constitution was amended in 2018 by amending article 10 paragraph 3 and adding a fourth paragraph stating that:[128]

It may be prescribed in law that measures which affect domestic peace and which are necessary for the enforcement of fundamental freedoms and rights, or for crimes to be investigated.

It may be prescribed in law regarding such restrictions on the secrecy of communications that are necessary for the investigation of such crimes that jeopardize the security of the individual or society or peace at home, at trial, in security checks and during detention, and to collect information on military activities or such other activities that seriously threaten the national security.[129]

The Coercive Measures Act has been amended 10 times in the last three years:

  • Amendment FFS 667/2016, which entered into force on January 1, 2017, amended provision 5 ch. 2, 3 §§, making changes to the provision on travel prohibitions.[130]
  • Amendment FFS 434/2017, which entered into force on July 3, 2017, amended provision 7 ch. 21 and transposed Directive 2014/41/EU on the European Parliament and of the Council of 3 April 2014 regarding the European investigation order in criminal matters.[131]
  • Amendment FFS 101/2018, which entered into force on January 1, 2019, amended provisions 2 ch. 12 §; and 5 ch. 1a, 2a, 4 §§ on pretrial detention and prohibitions on travel.[132]
  • Amendment FFS 112/2018, which entered into force on April 1, 2018, amended provisions 5 ch. 2 §, 10 ch. 1, 39, 47, 48, 46, 57, and 65 §§ on travel prohibitions and secret coercive measures and the law on crime prevention within the Customs and Borders Control.[133]
  • Amendment FFS 875/2018, which entered into force on November 15, 2018, amended provisions 10 ch. 3, 6, 7, 12, 17 §§ on changes to when coercive measures (such as electronic surveillance, systematic observation, and home surveillance) can be used.[134]
  • Amendment FFS 323/2019, which entered into force on June 11, 2019, amended provisions 2 ch. 11, 12 §§ on when a minor may detained.[135]
  • Amendment FFS 488/2019, which entered into force on April 15, 2019, amended provisions 10 ch. 3, 17 §§ on changes to electronic and home surveillance.[136]
  • Amendment FFS 509/2019, which entered into force on May 1, 2019, amended provision 11 ch. 4 §, 2 ch. 12, 2k §§, and 5 ch. 5 §, related to electronic monitoring during detention, wanted persons, and prohibition on travel.[137]
  • Amendment FFS 587/2019, which entered into force on June 1, 2019, amended provisions 2 ch.  9 § and 10 ch. 3, 6, 39 §§, on officials with the power to make an arrest and on electronic surveillance and its conditions and sources of information and the possibility of controlled use of informational sources.[138]
  • Amendment FFS 624/2019, which entered into force on June 1, 2019, amended provisions 9 ch. 4 §; 10 ch. 57 and 62 §§ on secret coercive measures, deletion of information, and limits to the right to information for parties in certain cases.[139]

E. Freedom of the Press

1. Scope

Finland is historically known for its freedom of the press. Finland, while part of Sweden, became one of the first countries in the world to recognize press freedom by legislation in 1766.[140] Reporters Without Borders ranked Finland second worldwide in press freedom in 2020.[141] Nevertheless, Finnish reporters are reportedly not immune to “state and social pressures” on their reporting.[142]

Press freedom is considered part of the right to freedom of expression regulated in article 12 of the Constitution.[143] In addition, press freedom is recognized in article 10 of the ECHR and through specific legislation, the Act on Freedom of Expression in Mass Communications.[144]

Everyone has a right to freedom of expression. The right to freedom of expression includes the right to present, disseminate, and receive information, opinions, and other messages without someone’s prior censorship. Additional rules on freedom of expression are issued by law. Rules on limitations with regard to picture programs that are necessary to protect children are issued by law.[145]

The Supreme Court of Finland has ruled on the limits of press freedoms in a number of binding cases, including in 2013, when the Supreme Court held that convicting an editor and the editor-in-chief of defamation and dissemination of information violating personal privacy did not violate their right to freedom of expression under the Constitution or the ECHR, when they had released the names of suspected white collar criminals via television, as they had wrongfully presented the suspects as having been convicted of the crimes in question.[146] In 2019, it allowed a search at the home of a journalist to proceed.[147] In another decision, also from 2019, the Supreme Court held that a USB-memory device confiscated at the home of a journalist could not be searched or used as part of the preliminary investigation in a criminal case.[148]

As a State party to the ECHR, Finland is also bound to ensure protection of the right to freedom of expression as stated in article 10, which includes the freedom of the press.[149] Specifically, as provided in article 10:

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.[150]

As mentioned above in Section I.B., the ECtHR has, on a number of occasions, found Finland in violation of article 10. For example, in Niskasaari v. Finland, the ECtHR found that Finnish courts had gone beyond what was “necessary in a democratic society” when it punished a reporter with 40 daily fines as well as damages for misreporting on (and thereby defaming) the Child Ombudsman.[151] According to the ECtHR, the Finnish courts had not ”paid sufficient attention to the ‘journalistic’ hue of the case,”[152] and failed to balance the reporter’s freedom of expression against the conflicting right to reputation of the Child Ombudsman.[153] Absent the striking such a balance, the Finnish courts’ reasoning was not “sufficient to show that the interference complained of ‘was necessary in a democratic society,’” and was therefore contrary to article 10 of the ECHR.[154]

In Saaristo and others v. Finland,[155] the ECtHR found that Finland had violated article 10 of the ECHR. Finnish courts had convicted a journalist and an editor-in-chief for violating the right to a private life of the communications manager for the presidential campaign of Esko Aho, when they in print claimed that the manager had a romantic relationship with the presidential candidate. The ECtHR concluded that, in view of the communications manager’s public role (as contrasted with private persons) and the importance of the press in a democratic society, the sanctions imposed by the Finnish courts (criminal liability and an order to pay fines, damages, and plaintiff’s legal fees, etc.) was disproportionate and thereby violated ECHR.[156]

The ECtHR has also allowed restrictions on the freedom of the press, for example, in Pentikäinen v. Finland,[157] discussed above in Section II.B.1. on freedom of expression. In Satakunnan Markkinapörssi Oy and Satamedia Oy v. Finland,[158] the ECtHR found that restraining a newspaper and message service that published and supplied information on taxable income that was otherwise public information was not a violation of article 10 of the ECHR and that the Finnish court had struck a fair balance between the right to freedom of expression and the right to respect for private life.[159]  

2. Exceptions and Exemptions

Press freedom may be limited in accordance with the law.[160] Press freedom is limited by the same exemptions as the freedom of expression,[161] for example, the laws against libel, defamation, and hate speech.[162] However, the weighing of different interests and the striking of a balance between what is allowed and what is a violation of the freedom of the press encompass different considerations than when determining the extent of freedom of expression—as seen in the ECtHR cases discussed above. The only limitation explicitly specified in Finland’s Constitution is the limitation on programs that may be damaging to children.[163]

3. Recent Amendments

Neither the constitutional provision on Press Freedom nor the Act on Freedom of Expression in Mass Communications has been amended recently. The most recent amendment to the Act on Freedom of Expression in Mass Communication took effect in 2016.[164]

F. Open Internet

1. Scope

Open internet (i.e., measures to ensure a free, neutral, decentralized internet) is not specifically addressed in the Finnish Constitution.[165] However, access to the internet is a legal right in Finland.[166] Under Finnish law, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are obliged to provide access to the internet throughout Finland, at a reasonable price, as the internet qualifies as a public utility.[167] Specifically:

Telecommunications operators that Finnish Traficom has designated as universal public service providers for internet services, as specified in article 85, must provide – regardless of the geographical location – at a reasonable price from the perspective of the user –a subscription to the public internet at the place where the user or subscriber permanently resides or is located. The telecommunications corporation must provide the subscription within a reasonable time from the time of the order.

The subscription must be such that all users and subscribers may obtain an expedient internet connection, considering the transfer speed that most users and subscribers have as well as the technical feasibility and costs.

Provisions on the minimum speed for an expedient internet connection is issued in regulations by the Ministry of Transport and Communications. Before the regulation is issued Traficom shall, as necessary, produce a report on the market for data transfer services, including what transfer speed most users and subscribers use, as well as the technical developmental level, and in addition make an evaluation on the [proposed] provisions’ financial consequences for the tele corporations.

Traficom may issue additional regulations on how connections technically must be performed and what technical specification they must meet.[168]

Moreover, open internet is also regulated under EU law[169] Being directly applicable in Finland, the EU’s regulation “establishes common rules to safeguard equal and non-discriminatory treatment of traffic in the provision of internet access services and related end-users’ rights.”[170] Providers are not allowed to block, slow down, restrict, or otherwise discriminate between or interfere with specific services, applications, or content. The regulation also requires providers to include in their contracts information on, among other things, volume limitations, speed, and quality of internet access.[171] In Finland, the supervisory authority for compliance with these provisions is the Finnish Transport and Communications Authority (Traficom).[172]

In addition, under the Act on the Provision of Digital Services,[173] the EU Web Accessibility Directive is transposed in Finland.[174] It applies to digital services provided by Finnish authorities, public sector bodies, providers of services that are essential to the public (water, electricity, transport, and mail services), credit institutions, payment service providers, etc. and requires them to ensure accessibility to their websites and mobile applications.[175] A digital service provider to which the act applies may only diverge from the accessibility requirement if it can show that compliance would impose a disproportionate burden on the provider, considering especially the needs of persons with disabilities using the service.[176]

2. Exceptions and Exemptions

As specified in law, ISPs need not supply internet access to persons who have been prosecuted for “disturbing the mail- and tele traffic” if that crime has been committed with the help of an ISP subscription, or if the subscriber has unpaid debt (unpaid, due, non-contentious, or undisputed debts) with the ISP.[177] 

In addition, an ISP need not supply internet to a geographically remote area at its own expense, if the cost for doing so is disproportional. In these cases, the ISP has a right to be reimbursed by the Finnish State.[178] The calculation of the size of the reimbursement is based on the:

1) size of the [ISP] corporation,

2) the activities pursued by the [ISP] corporation,

3) the turnover of the [ISP] corporation’s tele activity, number service, and telephone catalog service, and

4) other circumstances that can be equated with those mentioned in items 1-3.[179]

The decision whether to reimburse, and if so, how much, is made by the Ministry of Transport and Communications, using a net cost calculation provide by Traficom.[180] The reimbursement, which requires an application, is retroactive for up to one year.[181]

Exceptions to the requirement of ISPs not to block, slow down, restrict, or otherwise discriminate between or interfere with specific services, applications, or content are laid down in article 3 of Regulation (EU) 2015/2120 on an Open Internet. The exceptions allow limited traffic management measures that are undertaken to comply with legislation, preserve network security, or prevent temporary congestion.[182]

3. Recent Amendments

There are no recent amendments to the Constitution regarding the right to internet access, but an amendment to the Act on the Provision of Digital Services is pending before Parliament.[183] The bill transposes the Directive on European Electronic Communications Code and the Audiovisual Media Service Directive.[184]  

G. Discrimination

1. Scope

The Finnish Constitution protects against discrimination in chapter 2, section 6, which specifically states that:

 Everyone is equal before the law. No one shall, without an acceptable reason, be treated differently from other persons on the ground of sex, age, origin, language, religion, conviction, opinion, health, disability or other reason that concerns his or her person.

Children shall be treated equally and as individuals and they shall be allowed to influence matters pertaining to themselves to a degree corresponding to their level of development.

Equality of the sexes is promoted in societal activity and working life, especially in the determination of pay and the other terms of employment, as provided in more detail by an Act.[185]

Discrimination as a criminal act is addressed in chapter 11, section 11 of the Penal Code, specifically.

Discrimination

Anyone who in business, professional practice, serves the public; performs a service or any other public assignment; or arranges a public event or a general meeting and without acceptable reason

1) does not serve any particular person on normal terms,

2) denies any access to the event or meeting or removes anyone therefrom, or

3) puts someone in a manifestly unequal or significantly worse position than others

because of his race, national or ethnic origin, skin color, language, sex, age, family relationship, sexual orientation, genetic heritage, disability or state of health or religion, social opinion, political or trade union activity or any other comparable circumstance, unless the act constitutes discrimination in working life or usury-like discrimination in working life, for discrimination is sentenced to a fine or imprisonment for a maximum of six months.[186]

Thus, the rules on discrimination also apply equally to foreign nationals.[187] However, requiring Finnish citizenship for certain government positions of trust, such as President,[188] members of Parliament,[189] members of the Cabinet,[190] and police officers,[191] is not considered discrimination.[192]

Finland is also bound by EU Directive 2000/43/EC of 29 June 2000, which implements the principle of equal treatment of people regardless of racial and ethnic origin.[193]

Discrimination is further regulated and addressed in several Finnish Acts, including the Discrimination Act,[194] and the Act on Equality Between Women and Men.[195]

In addition, under Finnish law, the Swedish language has the same legal standing as the Finnish language. Government information must be provided in Swedish as well as Finnish, and Swedish-speaking Finns have a right to use Swedish in dealing with the government and government agencies.[196] Likewise, Sami speakers have a right to use their language in dealing with the government.[197] In 2020, it was reported that some laws had not been accurately translated into Swedish.[198]

As of 2017, Finland’s marriage definition is gender neutral, and it has recognized same-sex partnerships since 2002.[199]

a. Legal Precedent

The Supreme Court has ruled on discrimination in several cases, including in 2010 when it convicted a clergyman for refusing to work together with a female pastor.[200] All types of disparate treatment are not necessarily considered discrimination, however. For example, in 2013, the Finnish Supreme Court held that paying a man and a woman differently as a result of their being covered by different collective agreements was not discriminatory.[201]

In 2014, the ECtHR ruled that Finland did not violate the ECHR when it refused to recognize a person as female because the person was still married to her wife.[202]

b. Parliamentary Ombudsman of Finland

The Parliamentary Ombudsman of Finland (JO)[203] is tasked with reviewing the activity of the government, including whether government agencies and public authorities adhere to discrimination laws.[204] Persons affected by discrimination may contact the JO directly to lodge a complaint.[205]

As a response to Black Lives Matter demonstrations held in Finland during 2020, the JO has received numerous complaints of activism by members of the police who participated in the demonstrations in uniform.[206] It is currently investigating these claims.[207]

c. Non-Discrimination Ombudsman

The Non-Discrimination Ombudsman is responsible for assisting persons subject to discrimination when their claim is heard, as well as assisting Finnish authorities, providers of education, and employers to plan measures to promote equality. It is also responsible for issuing general recommendations on the prevention of discrimination and the promotion of equal treatment and for taking measures to achieve settlements.[208]

In 2020, the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman published a report on the treatment of Finns with African heritage.[209] According to the report, the respondents to the survey had experienced widespread discrimination on the basis of their African heritage, ranging from micro-aggressions to violence.[210] However, 61% of the respondents stated that they had not reported incidents of discrimination, and only 37% of the persons responding to the survey believe they know their rights when being discriminated against.[211]

The Non-Discrimination Ombudsman has previously negotiated settlements for discrimination, including in 2015, when a restaurant was accused of discriminating against a party of Romani patrons by requiring them to pay for their meal in advance. According to the settlement, the restaurant was to issue an apology to the injured parties and pay €2,500 (about US$2,950) for violating the prohibition on discrimination.[212] In 2017, after a store’s employees prevented a group of people from entering the store without a security guard present because of the group’s ethnic origin, the store and its employees were jointly fined €1,240 (about US$1,460) and had to pay €3,000 (about US$3,500) in compensation to the plaintiffs as well as €1,500 (about US$1,770) for their suffering, plus legal costs.[213]

d. In the News

In 2020, a man accused security guards of racism when he was handcuffed in the Helsinki subway, but the Finnish police determined that he was not discriminated against, as they could find neither excessive use of force nor a racist motive for the action.[214]

2. Exemption and Exceptions             

As mentioned above, the Discrimination Act and the Constitution both exempt differentiated treatment when motivated by “acceptable reasons.”[215]

3. Recent Amendments

There have been no amendments to the constitutional provisions on discrimination, nor have there been any amendments to the Discrimination Act in the last three years.[216]

In 2019, the Finnish parliament revoked a previous law that exempted members of Jehovah’s Witnesses from all form of military service because of their faith.[217] In accordance with Finland’s Constitution, military service is mandatory for males who are 18 years of age, but persons who do not wish to perform weapons-based service may instead elect to serve in a civilian capacity.[218]

Refusal to serve in any capacity civil or criminal is punishable by up to one year of imprisonment.[219] As specified by law, Jehovah’s Witnesses were exempt, as their faith forbade them from serving.[220] In revoking the exemption, the Finnish Parliament noted that the aim of the revocation was to ensure that persons of all faiths and beliefs would be treated equally and without discrimination, in accordance with the prohibition against discrimination in the Finnish Constitution.[221]

Under Finnish law, women, regardless of faith, are not required to serve, but may volunteer to serve.[222]

Update (October 16, 2020)

On September 22, 2020, the Finnish Supreme Court ordered the dissolution of Nordiska Motståndsrörelsen (NMR) (Nordic Resistance Movement), an unregistered neo-Nazi association. The Supreme Court found that the association is unlawful because its activities and stated objectives violate law and good practice. It also found that the association’s activities are not protected under the right to freedom of speech because the purpose of the organization is to limit the constitutional freedoms of others, and that they have thereby abused the right to freedom of expression.
Additional information on this topic is available  

Back to Top

Prepared by Elin Hofverberg
Foreign Law Specialist
October 2020


[1] Finlands grundlag (FFS 731/1999), https://perma.cc/Q4R6-BJX8.

[2] See Section I A infra.      

[3] See Section II B infra.

[4] See Section II C infra.

[5] See Section II D infra.

[6] See Section II E infra.

[7] See Section II F infra.

[8] Rd GrUB 10/1998 rd- RP 1/1998 rd  Grundlagsutskottets betänkande 10/1998 rd Regeringens proposition med förslag till ny Regeringsform för Finland, https://perma.cc/322T-QYYZ.

[9] Lag om ändring av 35 och 90 § i Finlands grundlag (FFS 596/2007), https://perma.cc/K7GJ-Y5B2; Lag om ändring av 9 och 38 § i Finlands grundlag (802/2007), https://perma.cc/HGP8-75E9. Lag om ändring av Finlands grundlag (FFS 1112/2011), https://perma.cc/Z3P3-48A2; Lag om ändring av Finlands grundlag (FFS 817/2018), https://perma.cc/2NMZ-SPFD.

[10] 1 § Finlands grundlag; Convention on the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, Nov. 4, 1950, 213 U.N.T.S. 221, https://www.echr.coe.int/Documents/Convention_Eng.pdf.

[11] Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, 2012  O.J. (C 326/391), https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=celex:12012P/TXT.

[12] Convention on the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, supra note 10; Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (2012/C 326/02), https://ec.europa.eu/info/aid-development-cooperation-fundamental-rights/your-rights-eu/eu-charter-fundamental-rights_en, https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX:12012P/TXT.

[13] Regeringens proposition RP 198-2017 rd till riksdagen med förslag till lag om ändring av 10 § i Finlands grundlag, https://www.finlex.fi/sv/esitykset/he/2017/20170198.pdf; see also GrUB 25/1994 rd, 5-6, https://www.eduskunta.fi/SV/vaski/Mietinto/Documents/grub_25+1994.pdf

[14] Regeringens proposition RP 198-2017 rd till riksdagen med förslag till lag om ändring av 10 § i Finlands grundlag; see also GrUB 25/1994 rd, 5.

[15] Regeringens proposition RP 198-2017 rd till riksdagen med förslag till lag om ändring av 10 § i Finlands grundlag.

[16] 73 § Finlands grundlag.

[17] Id.

[18] Kongl. Maj:ts Nådige Förordning, Angående Skrif- och Tryckfriheten; Gifwen Stockholm i Rådkammaren den 2. December.1766 [His Royal Majesty’s Gracious Ordinance Relating to Freedom of Writing and of the Press, Delivered at Stockholm in the Council on December 2, 1766], https://perma.cc/9NTW-XA76; see also Elin Hofverberg, 250 Years of Press Freedom in Sweden, In Custodia Legis (Dec. 19, 2016), https://perma.cc/UP2Q-SC5A.

[19] Article 10 of the Act provided that “free access should be allowed to all archives, for the purpose of copying such documents in loco or obtaining certified copies of them.”(Translation by author.)

[20] 12 § Finlands grundlag.

[21] Id.; Lag om offentlighet i myndigheternas verksamhet (1999/621), https://perma.cc/V3UQ-W9NC; Förordning om offentlighet och god informationshantering i myndigheternas verksamhet (FFS 12.11.1999/1030), https://perma.cc/4ZBP-FZG9.

[22] 12 § Finlands grundlag.

[23] Art. 12 Finlands grundlag. (Translation by author.)

[24] Ministry of Justice, Act on the Openness of Government Activitieshttps://perma.cc/GAQ2-XYT7.

[25] 1 § Lag om offentlighet i myndigheternas verksamhet (1999/621).

[26] Id. 4 §.

[27] 6 kap. Lag om offentlighet i myndigheternas verksamhet.

[28] Id. 6 kap. 24 §.

[29] Id. 6 kap. 34 §.

[30] Lag om ändring av 11 § i lagen om offentlighet i myndigheternas verksamhet (FFS 1400/2016), https://perma.cc/U3LR-YXNW; Lag om ändring av 24 § i lagen om offentlighet i myndigheternas verksamhet (FFS 808/2017), https://perma.cc/KF8A-5FRW; Lag om ändring av lagen om offentlighet i myndigheternas verksamhet (FFS 604/2018), https://perma.cc/M42V-YPCW; Lag om ändring av 24 § i lagen om offentlighet i myndigheternas verksamhet (FFS 277/2019), https://perma.cc/EF7C-J9Q5; Lag om ändring av lagen om offentlighet i myndigheternas verksamhet (FFS 907/2019), https://perma.cc/HED7-KDFY; Lag om ändring av 24 § i lagen om offentlighet i myndigheternas verksamhet  (FFS 622/2020), https://perma.cc/VE9G-26AB.

[31] Lag om ändring av 24 § i lagen om offentlighet i myndigheternas verksamhet (FFS 622/2020), entered into force on Sept. 1, 2020, https://perma.cc/VE9G-26AB

[32] Id. (Translation by author.)

[33] Lag om ändring av 24 § i lagen om offentlighet i myndigheternas verksamhet (FFS 277/2019), https://perma.cc/L35Q-7278; Lag om ändring av lagen om offentlighet i myndigheternas verksamhet (FFS 907/2019), https://perma.cc/WKV5-F5RL.

[34] Lag om ändring av lagen om offentlighet i myndigheternas verksamhet (FFS 907/2019); Lag om ändring av 24 § i lagen om offentlighet i myndigheternas verksamhet (FFS 277/2019).

[35] Lag om ändring av lagen om offentlighet i myndigheternas verksamhet (FFS 907/2019).

[36] Lag om ändring av 24 § i lagen om offentlighet i myndigheternas verksamhet (FFS 277/2019).

[37] Lag om ändring av 11 § i lagen om offentlighet i myndigheternas verksamhet (FFS 1400/2016); Lag om ändring av 24 § i lagen om offentlighet i myndigheternas verksamhet (FFS 808/2017); Lag om ändring av lagen om offentlighet i myndigheternas verksamhet (FFS 604/2018).

[38] 12 § Finlands grundlag.

[39] 12 § 1 para Finlands grundlag. 

[40] ECHR art. 10.

[41] For example, Niskasaari v. Finland, App. No. 37520/07, Eur. Ct. H.R. (2010), https://perma.cc/K7LQ-FMNX; see also European Court of Human Rights Factsheet, Hate Speech (Mar. 2019), https://perma.cc/884L-7BKA.

[42] Nikula v. Finland, App. 31611/96, Eur. Ct. H.R. (2002), http://hudoc.echr.coe.int/eng?i=001-60333.

[43] Goussev and Marenk v. Finland, Appl. No. 35083/97, Eur. Ct. H.R. (2006), https://hudoc.echr.coe.int/eng#22itemid22:[22001-72035-22].

[44] Id. ¶ 56.

[45] Id. ¶ 38.

[46] Pentikäinen v. Finland, (App. No. 11882/10), Eur. Ct. H.R. (Grand Chamber) (Oct. 20, 2015), https://perma.cc/L5TX-EADR#/22itemid/22:/22001-158279/22.

[47] Id. ¶¶ 61-64.

[48] 15 § Lag om klientens ställning och rättigheter inom socialvården (FFS 22.9.2000/812), https://perma.cc/893G-998X; 17 § Lag om yrkesutbildade personer inom hälso- och sjukvården (FFS 28.6.1994/559), https://perma.cc/62V2-H5MA

[49] 5 § Lag om klientens ställning och rättigheter inom socialvården; 17 § Lag om yrkesutbildade personer inom hälso- och sjukvården.

[50] 5c § Lag om advokater (FFS 12.12.1958/496), https://perma.cc/2L8S-XZJ8.

[51] 28 § Kyrkolag (FFS 26.11.1993/1054), https://perma.cc/4KB4-MVUR.

[52] 7 kap. 1 § Polislag (FFS 22.7.2011/872), https://perma.cc/WPZ9-BAWH.

[53] 23 § Lag om offentlighet i myndigheternas verksamhet.

[54] 24 kap. Strafflagen (FFS 19.12.1889/39), https://perma.cc/LQB9-WZS5.

[55] Id. 24 kap. 1a §.

[56] Id. 24 kap. 8 §.

[57] Id. 24 kap. 8 a §.

[58] Id. 24. kap. 9 §.

[59] Id. 24 kap. 10 §.

[60] Id. 17 kap.

[61] Id. 17 kap. 10 §.

[62] Id. 24 kap. 9-10 §§.

[63] Id. 24 kap. 10 §.

[64] Id. 24 kap 9-10 §.

[65] See id.

[66] 11 kap. 10 § Stafflagen (Hets mot folkgrupp); 11 kap. 10a § Strafflagen (Grovt hets mot folkgrupp).

[67] KKO:2012:58, https://perma.cc/QPR5-Y4V8; Press Release, Högsta Domstolen, Politiker dömd för kränkande skriverier om islam och somalier (June 8, 2012), https://perma.cc/LR92-W6EX

[68] 11 kap. 10 § Strafflagen.

[69] Id. 11 kap. 10a §.

[70] For instance, the Finnish Prosecutor General decided not to prosecute the Finnish Member of Parliament (MP) Juho Eerola for a comment he made on Facebook. The MP was suspect of having committed “agitation against a protected group” (hets mot folkgrupp) by publishing comments on his Facebook page. The prosecutor found that because he was commenting on a big drug case in Finland, the comment should be seen in this political context, and that such political discussions were important, and thus the comment was not a crime. Press Release, Riksåklagarämbetet, Riksåklagaren väckte inte åtal mot riksdagsmannen Juho Eerola i brottsärendet rörande Facebook-skriveriet (Apr. 6, 2018), https://perma.cc/UY9K-FUCW.

[71] 17 kap. 1 § Strafflagen.

[72] Id.

[73] 3 kap. 4 § Arbetsavtalslag (FFS 26.1.2001/55), https://perma.cc/2RE6-6LL7; 4 § Lag om företagshemligheter (FFS 10.8.2018/595 ), https://perma.cc/K5H4-FSXA.

[74] 5 § Lag om företagshemligheter.

[75] Finlands grundlag, list of amendments at bottom of Act.

[76] Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and the Council on Preventing the Dissemination of Terrorist Content Online A Contribution from the European Commission to the Leaders’ Meeting in Salzburg on 19-20 September 2018, COM/2018/640 final, https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/ALL/?uri=CELEX:52018PC0640.

[77] Id.

[78] Statsrådets U-skrivelse [U 98 2018 rd] Statsrådets skrivelse till riksdagen om kommissionens förslag till Europaparlamentets och rådets förordning om förhindrande av spridning av terrorisminnehåll online (Nov. 7, 2018), https://perma.cc/L9YZ-8NJL.

[79] Id.

[80] Id. 

[81] 13 § Finlands grundlag.

[82] Id. (Translation by author).

[83] 9 § Finlands grundlag.

[84] Lag om sammankomster (FFS 22.4.1999/530), https://perma.cc/PF45-9Z2M.

[85] 3 § Lag om sammankomster.

[86] Id. 3 §.

[87] Id. 4 §. 

[88] Ordningslag (FFS 27.6.2003/612), https://perma.cc/YX4F-6CWN.

[89] Lag om smittsamma sjukdomar (FFS 21.12.2016/1227), https://perma.cc/4QQP-BYMR.  

[90] Beredskapslagen (FFS 29.12.2011/1552), https://perma.cc/UFB8-2LQ5.

[91] Stafflagen (FFS 19.12.1889/39) , https://perma.cc/LQB9-WZS5.

[92] 3 § Ordningslagen.

[93] Id. 7 §.

[94] Restrictions During the Coronavirus Epidemic, Government of Finland, https://perma.cc/GD33-KHJB

[95] 13 § Finlands grundlag.

[96] Föreningslag (FFS 26.5.1989/503), https://perma.cc/Q3TX-JAEB; https://perma.cc/WQ89-HBS2 (unofficial English translation). 

[97] See list of amendments in Finlands grundlag.

[98] Lag om ändring av föreningslagen  (FFS 462/2017) entered into force on Sept. 16, 2019, https://perma.cc/Z77T-5S6M; see also RP 228/2016, https://perma.cc/X3EG-KU3A.

[99] Lag om ändring av 11och 47 § i föreningslagen (FFS 336/2020) entered into force on June 1, 2020, https://perma.cc/4PWL-EN7J; see also RP 2/2020, https://perma.cc/95AJ-4QGH.

[100] Consolidated text: Regulation (EU) 2016/679 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 April 2016 on the Protection of Natural Persons with Regard to the Processing of Personal data and on the Free Movement of Such Data, and Repealing Directive 95/46/EC (General Data Protection Regulation), https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?qid=1532348683434&uri=CELEX:02016R0679-20160504.

[101] Lag om ändring av 11och 47 § i föreningslagen (FFS 336/2020).

[102] 10 § Finlands grundlag.

[103] See Section I above.

[104] ECHR art. 8.

[105] 10 § Finlands grundlag. (Translation by author.)

[106] R2016/319, 10.7.2018, KKO 2018:51; Press Relase, Högsta Domstolen, Publiceringen av en gärningsmans foto på Facebook kränkte skyddet för privatlivet – följden var bötesstraff (July 10, 2018), https://perma.cc/63Z4-997E.

[109] HD:2009:3, https://perma.cc/AS6E-JJDS; Press Release, Högsta domstolen, Domen för publicering av ett videoklipp där man såg hur två barn omhändertogs ändrades inte (December 4, 2018), https://perma.cc/4R9M-MDU2.

[110] ECHR art. 46. (“The High Contracting parties undertake to abide by the final judgment of the Court in any case to which they are parties.”)

[111] Press Release, Statsradet, Europadomstolens dom i ett mål om rätt till skydd för privatliv (2013), https://perma.cc/DA55-LPAV; Press Release, Statsradet, Europadomstolens dom i ett mål om rätt till skydd för privatlivet, (2014), https://perma.cc/36NA-ARQL.

[112] K.U. v. Finland (Appl. No. 2872/02) Eur. Ct. H.R. (Dec. 2, 2008), https://perma.cc/NRH6-FKBC#/22itemid/22:[/22001-89964%22].

[113] I v. Finland (Appl. No. 20511/03)  Eur. Ct. H.R. (July 7, 2008), https://perma.cc/GT2S-ZBAS#/22itemid/22:[/22001-87510/22].

[114] Id. ¶¶ 35-49.

[115] 8 § Dataskyddslag (FFS 5.12.2018/1050), https://perma.cc/VTW8-RTW8.

[116] Dataombudsmannen byrå, Aktuellt, https://perma.cc/666B-KUHV.

[117] Press Release, Office of the Data Protection Ombudsman, Office of the Data Protection Ombudsman’s sanctions board imposes administrative fine for several deficiencies in personal data processing (May 29, 2020), https://perma.cc/AV6Z-6M5F.

[118] Press Release, Office of the Data Protection Ombudsman, Deputy Data Protection Ombudsman Ordered Google to Delete Search Results (May 7, 2020), https://perma.cc/WNW5-T368.

[119] Press Release, Office of the Data Protection Ombudsman, Personal Identity Codes Not to Be Used on Invoices (June 1, 2020), https://perma.cc/VH87-NT2P.

[120] Dataskyddslag (FFS 5.12.2018/1050), https://perma.cc/VTW8-RTW8.

[121] Lag om ändring av 10 § i Finlands grundlag (FFS 817/2018), https://perma.cc/KY93-WNA4; RP 198-2017 rd, https://perma.cc/JE25-H958.

[122] 10 § Grundlagen, amended through Lag om ändring av 10 § i Finlands grundlag (FFS 817/2018).

[123] Tvångsmedelslag (FFS 22.7.2011/806), https://perma.cc/C2FL-7ZPM.

[124] Id. 5 kap. 1 §, and 10 kap. 1 and 3 §§.

[125] Id. 10 kap. 17 §.

[126] Id. 1 kap. 2 and 3 §§.

[127] 157  and 322 §§ Lag om tjänster inom elektronisk kommunikation (FFS 2014/917), https://perma.cc/G59J-6WNG; see also 10 kap. 6 § Tvångsmedelslag.

[130] Lag om ändring av 5 kap. 2 och 3 § i tvångsmedelslagen (FFS 667/2016), https://perma.cc/4HNR-LM3W.

[131] Lag om ändring av 7 kap. 21 § i tvångsmedelslagen (FFS 434/2017), https://perma.cc/G42F-DD85.

[132]Lag om ändring av tvångsmedelslagen (FFS 101/2018), https://perma.cc/SF9V-66ML.

[133] Lag om ändring av tvångsmedelslagen (FFS 112/2018), https://perma.cc/LSR2-F37Y.

[134] Lag om ändring av 10 kap. i tvångsmedelslagen (FFS 875/2018), https://perma.cc/62A4-EBTE.

[135] Lag om ändring av 2 kap. 11 och 12 § i tvångsmedelslagen (FFS 323/2019), https://perma.cc/Q4DC-U6NY.

[136] Lag om ändring av 10 kap. 3 och 17 § i tvångsmedelslagen (FFS 488/2019), https://perma.cc/BQ2H-UXSE

[137] Lag om ändring av tvångsmedelslagen (FFS 509/2019), https://perma.cc/LW2J-5CF5.

[138] Lag om ändring av 2 och 10 kap. i tvångsmedelslagen (FFS 587/2019),  https://perma.cc/T9N4-TE66.

[139] Lag om ändring av tvångsmedelslagen  (FFS 624/2019), https://perma.cc/WLL3-AUYH 

[140] Kongl. Maj:ts Nådige Förordning, Angående Skrif- och Tryckfriheten; Gifwen Stockholm i Rådkammaren den 2. December.1766 [His Royal Majesty’s Gracious Ordinance Relating to Freedom of Writing and of the Press, Delivered at Stockholm in the Council on December 2, 1766], https://perma.cc/9NTW-XA76; see also Elin Hofverberg, 250 Years of Press Freedom in Sweden, In Custodia Legis (Dec. 19, 2016), https://perma.cc/UP2Q-SC5A.

[141] 2020 World Press Freedom Index, Reporters Without Borders, https://perma.cc/JTX8-4ZWX; Finland, Reporters Without Borders, https://perma.cc/D9JA-G68L.

[142] Press Freedom 2020: Journalists in Finland Not Immune to Pressure, YLE News (Apr. 21, 2020), https://perma.cc/HJG4-CJU7.

[143] See Section II.B. above.

[144] Lag om yttrandefrihet i masskommunikation (FFS 13.6.2003/460), https://perma.cc/G826-BXHC. For an overview of how Finland protects journalists, see Elin Hofverberg, Finland in Laws Protecting Journalists from Online Harassment, Law Library of Congress (Sept. 2019), https://perma.cc/R5JN-8BKK.

[145] 12 § 1 Finlands grundlag (translation by author).

[147] HD:2019:67, https://perma.cc/W33A-KJVJ; Press Release, Högsta domstolen, HD Ändrade Inte Hovrättens Beslut om Husrannsakan som Gjordes Hemma hos en Journalist (Aug. 13, 2019), https://perma.cc/6Z3L-PXDA.

[148] HD:2019:112, https://perma.cc/WZJ4-TH3Z; Press Release, Högsta domstolen, Den minnespinne som beslagtagits hemma hos en journalist fick inte undersökas eller utnyttjas vid förundersökningen (Dec. 20, 2020), https://perma.cc/9N39-N5AT.

[149] ECHR art. 10.

[150] Id. 

[151] Niskasaari v. Finland, supra note 41. However, see also Pentikäinen v. Finland, supra note 46 (finding no violation when police asked a photographer to leave a demonstration).

[152] Id. ¶58.

[153] Id.

[154] Id. ¶¶ 59-60.

[155] Saaristo and Others v. Finland (Appl. No. 184/06), Eur. Ct. H.R. (Oct. 12, 2010), https://perma.cc/YC5F-TRAR.

[156] Id. ¶¶ 70-72.

[157] Pentikäinen v. Finland, supra note 46.

[158] Satakunnan Markkinapörssi Oy and Satamedia Oy v. Finland (Application No. 931/13), Eur. Ct. H.R. (June 27, 2017), https://perma.cc/P4C7-UN23.

[159] Satakunnan Arkkinaporssi Oy and Oy v. Finland at ¶ 69.

[160] 12 § Finlands grundlag.             

[161] See section I.B.2. above.

[162]  24 kap. 8–10 § Strafflagen; 23 § Lag om yttrandefrihet i masskommunikation.

[163] 10 § Grundlagen; see also Rd GrUB 10/1998 rd- RP 1/1998 rd  Grundlagsutskottets betänkande 10/1998 rd Regeringens proposition med förslag till ny Regeringsform för Finland, https://perma.cc/322T-QYYZ.

[164] See Lag yttrandefrihet i masskommunikation; Lag om ändring av 17§ i lagen om yttrandefrihet i masskommunikation (FFS906/2015), https://perma.cc/4APA-ZGE5

[165] See Finlands grundlag, e contrario.

[166] See also BBC, Finland Makes Broadband a “Legal Right” (July 1, 2010), https://perma.cc/X32H-2UAG.

[167] 87 § Lag om tjänster inom elektronisk kommunikation (FFS 2014/917), https://perma.cc/G59J-6WNG((23.11.2018/1003))

[168] 87 § Lag om tjänster inom elektronisk kommunikation.

[169] Consolidated text: Regulation (EU) 2015/2120 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 November 2015 Laying Down Measures Concerning Open Internet Access and Retail Charges for Regulated intra-EU communications and Amending Directive 2002/22/EC and Regulation (EU) No 531/2012 (Text with EEA relevance), https://perma.cc/7HBC-36GD.

[170] Id. art. 1.

[171] Id. art. 3.

[172] Open Internet or Net Neutrality, Traficom, https://perma.cc/8MH6-MKFS.

[173] Lag om tillhandahållande av digitala tjänster (FFS 306/2019), https://perma.cc/XYQ5-8TM8.

[174] Directive (EU) 2016/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 October 2016 on the Accessibility of the Websites and Mobile Applications of Public Sector Bodies, https://eur-lex.europa.eu/eli/dir/2016/2102/oj; see also Finansministeriet, Myndigheternas Förpliktelse att Tillhandahållav E-Tjänster, https://perma.cc/PMD7-MAYL.

[175] 3-6 §§ Lag om tillhandahållande av digitala tjänster. 

[176] 8 §.

[177] 88 § 3 st Lag om tjänster inom elektronisk kommunikation.

[178] Id. 93-94 §§. 

[179] Id. 94 §.

[180] Id.

[181] Id.

[182] Regulation (EU) 2015/2120, art. 3, supra note 169.

[183] Regeringens Proposition till Riksdagen med Förslag till Lagar om Ändring av Lagen om Tjänster inom Elektronisk Kommunikation och av Vissa Lagar som har Samband med den (RP RP 98/2020 rd) (June 12, 2020), https://perma.cc/ZE7L-8959; Edukstunta (overview page) P 98/2020 rd, https://perma.cc/4NVT-UGLB.

[184] RP 98/2020 rd, supra note 183.

[185] 2 kap. 6 § Finlands grundlag.

[186] 11 kap. 11 § Strafflagen.

[187]  2 kap. 6 § Finlands grundlag; see also Non-Discrimination Ombudsman, The Rights of Foreign Nationals, https://perma.cc/5MWZ-V9DY.

[188] 54 § Finlands grundlag.

[189] Id. 27 §.

[190]  Id. 60 §.

[191] 24 § Lag om Polisyrkeshögskolan (FFS 30.12.2013/1164), https://perma.cc/396X-SKZN.

[192] 11 § Diskrimineringslag (FFS 1325/2014), https://perma.cc/5MHE-MK39.

[193] Council Directive 2000/43 of June 29, 2000, Implementing the Principle of Equal Treatment Between Persons Irrespective of Racial and Ethnic Origin, 2000 O.J. (L 180) 22, https://perma.cc/MD5E-CJY4.

[194] Diskrimineringslag (FFS 1325/2014), https://perma.cc/5MHE-MK39.

[195] Lag om jämställdhet mellan kvinnor och män (FFS 609/1986), https://perma.cc/NM8P-JTNZ. For a more complete list, see Finlex, https://perma.cc/EJ56-45S6.

[196]  17 § Finlands grundlag.

[197]  Id.

[198] Pekka Palmgren, Fel i Lagtexterna på Svenska Leder till Allvarliga Konsekvenser för Medborgarna - Endel Lagar Granskas inte alls på Svenska, Svenska Yle (Sept. 27, 2020), https://perma.cc/W9VG-J4AZ. None of the laws mentioned in this report were reported as incorrectly translated.

[199]Äktenskapslag (FFS 13.6.1929/234); Lag om registrerat partnerskap (FFS); see also Elin Hofverberg, Finland: Gender Neutral Marriage Act Enters Into Force (Mar. 2, 2017), https://perma.cc/58M6-AUBH.

[200] Press Release, Högsta domstolen, Böter åt Präst för Diskriminering på Grund av Kön (Oct. 22, 2010), https://perma.cc/L42E-S9FD; see also Constance Johnson, Finland: Supreme Court Decides Sex Discrimination Case, Global Legal Monitor (Oct. 26, 2010), https://perma.cc/5HNL-TKCB.

[201] Press Release, Högsta domstolen, Löneskillnader Mellan Arbetstagare som Utförde Samma Arbete men Omfattades av Olika Kollektivavtal var Inte Diskriminerande (Feb. 15, 2013), https://perma.cc/R79L-YLKS.

[202] Elin Hofverberg, European Court of Human Rights; Finland: Court Rules on Change of Gender Issue, Global Legal Monitor (Aug. 1, 2014), https://perma.cc/8C5T-HGQX.

[203] The Work of the Ombudsman, Parliamentary Ombudsman, https://perma.cc/AP3T-RGAZ.

[204] 1 kap. 2§ Lag om riksdagens justitieombudsman (FFS 14.3.2002/197), https://perma.cc/M3GZ-XFJ6.

[205] Id.

[206] Press Release, JO, Numerous Complaints About Police Activities in the Black Lives Matter Demonstration (July 8, 2020), https://perma.cc/P8VX-S734.

[207] Id.

[208] 19 § Diskrimineringslag.

[209] Press Release, Diskrimineringsombudsmannen, Diskrimineringsombudsmannens Utredning: Rasism och diskriminering vardag för finländare med afrikansk bakgrund, https://perma.cc/P24T-G4XB.

[210] Diskrimineringsombudsmannen, Utredning om Diskrimineringsupplevelser hos Personer med Afrikanskt Ursprung, https://perma.cc/BN7R-ANAD.

[211] Id.

[212] Press Release, Diskrimineringsombudsmannen, Tammerforsrestaurang Betalar Ersättning för Diskriminering (Aug. 20, 2015), https://perma.cc/TA6U-FB4Y.

[213] Press Release, Diskrimineringsombudsmannen, Klädaffär Dömd för Etnisk Diskriminering – Målsägande Får Både Gottgörelse och Skadestånd (Sept. 25, 2017), https://perma.cc/L9N4-YCVV.

[214] Christoffer Gröhn, Ordningsvakter och Biljettkontrollanter Anklagades för Rasism när Svart man Belades med Handfängsel – Inget Brott, Enligt Polisen, Svenska Yle (Sept. 21, 2020), https://perma.cc/295U-48LZ.

[215] 2 kap. 6 § Finlands grundlag; 11 kap. 11 § Strafflag; 11 § Diskrimineringslag.

[216] See Finlands grundlag and Diskrimineringslag (amendments listed at bottom of each Act).

[217] Lag om upphävande av lagen om befrielse för Jehovas vittnen från fullgörandet av värnplikt i vissa fall (FFS 330/2019), https://perma.cc/9R29-J9UV; see also Elin Hofverberg, Finland: Parliament Revokes Law Exempting Jehovah’s Witnesses from Mandatory Military Service, Global Legal Monitor (Apr. 18, 2019), https://perma.cc/TC7W-SDNY.

[218] 127 § 1 st Finlands grundlag; 2 and 13 §§ Värnpliktslag (FFS 28.12.2007/1438), https://perma.cc/7X8K-5RFC.

[219] 118 §§ Värnpliktslag; 45 kap. 1 § Strafflagen.

[220] Lag om ändring av lagen om befrielse för Jehovas vittnen från fullgörandet av värnplikt i vissa fall (FFS 1261/1992), https://perma.cc/97F9-4SUP.

[221] Regeringens Proposition RP 139/2018 rd, https://perma.cc/W7HX-7KVV.

[222] Lag om frivillig militärtjänst för kvinnor (FFS 17.2.1995/194),  https://perma.cc/H34F-9E9A.

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Last Updated: 12/30/2020