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No Internet Control Brings Harm to Everyone

Posted June. 19, 2008 03:20,   


“The Finnish people value freedom of expression through the media and online. But we make thorough efforts to sort out illegal activities such as the spread of sexual and violent contents. I do not agree with the idea that everything is free on the Internet. Rather, protecting the Web space from lies, illegality, and crimes is much more important . . . Korea and Finland have a host of things in common since both countries are small but have a high education fever and advanced IT field.”

These remarks were made by Finnish Minister of Communications Suvi Linden at the opening of the OECD Ministerial Meeting on the Future of the Internet Economy in Seoul Wednesday. She has been responsible for providing a wide range of policies in relation with IT, broadcasting, communications, and publishing. Her country of Finland is famous for Nokia, the world`s leading mobile phone supplier with the largest share in the mobile phone market worldwide.

On the controversy surrounding “Digital Populism,” stemmed from the recent candlelight vigils in Korea, she responded she was well aware of the controversy. She stressed, “The very foundation of social communications could collapse if the media is stifled or attacked just for having different opinions. Participants should play fair with maturity.”

Finland has solidified its status as an IT powerhouse. At the same time, the country has emerged as a world leader in newspaper publishing with 80 percent of its people subscribers of paper-based newspapers. The country, with a population of 5.2 million, produces 3.2 million copies a day.

“Our country has a long tradition of ‘reading newspapers,’ ‘library’ and ‘story telling.’ All these have served as the driving engine for our IT advancement. In Finland, people usually prefer reading papers that are delivered to their home to buying them on a newsstand. This is because reading papers with a morning coffee has long been regarded as a tradition.”

Finland and Iceland were ranked first by the New York-based human rights monitor Freedom House in its annual survey of global press freedom. And Reporters Sans Frontieres (Reporters Without Borders) also selected Finland as first in 2006 and third in 2007 in terms of freedom of the press. Moreover, the country has been ranked first in national competitiveness and transparency for three years in a row since 2003.

“Freedom of the press is the most fundamental principle of democracy. In Finnish history, there was a dark period in which freedom of political expression was lost due to the intervention by the former USSR. However, it was our tradition of reading newspapers that kept our culture and our mother tongue from the suppression of the old Soviet Union. I am well aware of the fact that the Dong-A Ilbo also played a pivotal role in preserving Korean language and Korea’s national spirit during Japanese colonial rule,” said Linden.

Finland suffered a serious economic downturn in the wake of the collapse of the USSR on which the country’s economy heavily depended in the early 1990s. The nation had diminished as a “troublemaker in Europe” as a wave of its businesses went bankrupt and its unemployment rate soared to about 17 percent. Nokia, the nation’s major corporate, was on the verge of collapse and its CEO committed suicide in the face of the firm’s imminent bankruptcy.

Against this backdrop, the country managed to tide over the crisis by focusing on the IT industry and education. Linden explained, “We have educational programs in place that are designed to help elementary and secondary school students understand what is going on in society and equip them with critical yet balanced views through Newspaper in Education (NIE) programs.”

Linden added, “Finland allows its newspapers to operate broadcasting networks, as seen in the case of the TV network operated by the Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat, which has 25 percent Finnish people and 66 percent Helsinki citizens as its subscribers.” She continued, “We allow this since the papers in the future will converge with a host of other digital media such as the Internet, delivering news through a variety of channels.”