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Finland: the country where it is good to be a journalist

Finland: the country where it is good to be a journalist

As the participants of the 7th Mentor-Mentee Program for young investigative journalists we had the opportunity to spend three days in Helsinki, thanks to the Embassy of Finland in Budapest.

Before our journey began, we knew we would have the opportunity to take part in a host of professional events and gain an insight into the workings of the Finnish media. However, we returned home carrying the conviction that Finland is a superb place to work as a journalist.

Shortly after our arrival in Helsinki, we had a chance to take a small city tour; visiting the Christmas Fair and admiring the festive decorations. Even the bitter cold and windy weather couldn’t deter us from admiring the beautiful street lights. Later we went to the new library of the city, Oodi, which opened in 2018. There we realised that we have to rethink our concept of a public library; Oodi looks like a modern museum from the outside but contains a multitude of surprises inside! Gamer rooms, youngsters playing chess, cafés and the endless rows of bookshelves – this library is a vibrant public space and meeting point at the heart of the city.

On our second day in Helsinki the first destination was the Julkisen Sanan Neuvosto; the Council for Mass Media in Finland. The most important role of this self-governing organisation is to monitor press freedom in Finland and investigate complaints coming from the public regarding the work of different media outlets. The Julkisen Sanan Neuvosto investigates every complaint; in 2019 numbering 230; with their decisions made public.

Next, we paid a visit to the most important state-media outlet in Finland; YLE; where we explored the differences between press freedom in Hungary and Finland and had a chance to share the difficulties of journalists in Hungary. Our hosts, Riitta Pihlajamäki; Head of Current Affairs and Hanna Takala; leader of the investigative department (MOT); emphasized the importance of freedom in their work, which means not only political but also financial independence. They endeavour to provide equal coverage of all political parties and gender equality is also an important principle at YLE. They emphasized that they feel lucky, as despite some small issues, their work is generally unobstructed, allowing them to operate freely. This is important because, as they put it, YLE is publicly financed so they have to serve the whole society.

After YLE we had the opportunity to visit the largest Finnish daily newspaper, the Helsingin Sanomat. We discussed the future of investigative journalism and print media, as well as the power of visual content and digital storytelling. The editors of Helsingin Sanomat explained their daily work and stressed the importance of the media’s responsibility in informing people independently. In Finland, the situation is rather ideal: people trust the media, they do not question the credibility of the newspapers because they know that they count on authentic reporting. After the meeting in Helsingin Sanomat we even had the chance for a brief tour in the newsroom.


The Ministry for Foreign Affairs was our final stop for day one. Here we met Ville Cantell; Director of Europe and Neighbouring Areas and Saara Alhopuro; First Secretary dealing with the V4 countries. In addition to explaining their work in the Ministry, our hosts were very intrigued by the current media situation in Hungary. Their interest extended beyond media; asking us about education, and whether we plan to stay in Hungary or would rather leave the country in the future.

We had plenty of programs on our last day too. First, we visited the Finnish Lifelong Learning Foundation (KVS), which was founded in 1874. In Finland; education, even for adults, is of high importance. According to Lauri Tuomi; CEO of KVS; this is because they have experienced how worthwhile putting effort into educating people can be. At KVS we were shown two interesting projects connecting to media literacy.

The next stop was the Päivälehden Museo. The permanent exhibition displays the history of media, how the Finnish press and the technology behind journalism has changed. The museum also focuses on freedom of the press; an installation based on the World Press Freedom Index shows the difficulties faced by journalists in different countries, one example being Hungary.


Upon our return home, many of us will probably contemplate the words of well-known Hungary expert Annastiina Kallius. She talked at length about the importance of our work as young, aspiring journalists, in order to shine light on Hungarian issues and provide an example for Western-European journalists in fighting populism. This final point demonstrates the need for this kind of mentorship programme. It is enormously valuable to learn from others; from more experienced journalist; along our journey in this difficult but ever more rewarding profession.


The author of this travelogue is Zita Szopkó. The English translation was made by Kata Tasnádi. Both Zita and Kata were participants of TI Hungary’s 7th mentor-mentee program on investigative journalism, along with Vanda Törő, Bianka Czömpöl and Levente Várdai. 

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