the sally sisson blog

July 16, 2018

Celebrating Freedom of the Press: Finland News Museum

News Museum Helsinki Finland

En route to the Design Museum during a visit to Helsinki last fall, I spied a sign on a side street for something called the Päivälehti News Museum. Intrigued, I took a detour and walked inside for a quick visit. I stayed for over an hour, admiring the old-school machinery and interactive displays packed into the two small floors. Along with honoring press freedom and the profession of journalism, the museum aims “to promote the ability to interpret the media and particularly, to encourage children and adolescents to read.”

Freedom of Speech and Censorship Global Map Helsinki

Freedom of Speech and Censorship: A global perspective

Permanent exhibits here include an interactive world map that lets you follow global news feeds in real time and compare freedom of speech in different countries.

Press Freedom: Finland takes on Trump and Putin

Today’s news headlines brought this small museum back to mind. In case you missed it, the editor-in-chief of Helsinki’s largest newspaper shared a press release on Twitter, along with photos of some of the billboards (nearly 300 in total) lining the route from the airport to the site of the Trump-Putin summit. Other signs with relevant news headlines were strategically placed at bus stops, train stations and airports.

Kaius Niemi, editor-in-chief of Helsingin Sanomat, also sits on the Executive Board of the International Press Institute (IPI), a global network of editors, media executives and journalists established in 1950 to promote press freedom.

“This is a statement on behalf of critical and high-quality journalism,” Niemi said in the release. “As we welcome the presidents to the summit in Finland, we want to remind them of the importance of free press.”

The release notes that Finland is rated fourth in the Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index, far ahead of the U.S.’s 45th-place finish. Russia was listed by the organization as No. 148 out of 180.

As CNN reports, “The violent anti-press rhetoric from the highest level of the US government has been coupled with an increase in the number of press freedom violations at the local level as journalists run the risk of arrest for covering protests or simply attempting to ask public officials questions.”

Ode to Print and the Newspaper

Downstairs, I was the only person in the room among the printing press machinery and assorted newsroom relics. With no one watching, I ran my fingers along the Linotype at an old workstation and snapped some pictures of the original Heidelberg.

I studied Communications and Journalism as an undergraduate from 1979 to 1983 and have experienced the dramatic changes in technology first-hand. Like all my colleagues, I was prepared to train and retrain to keep up to speed with digital innovations that revolutionized the fields of publishing and media. But nothing prepared me for the recent attacks on the press. It never occurred to me that we had anything to worry about in America. Freedom of the press and censorship were topics studied in my Soviet politics classes, not U.S. history.

My, how times have changed.



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