I think I am the oldest in our group of 19 journalists. For the last two years, I’ve been working as a reporter for an important magazine in Brazil, that deposes politicians, encourages discussion, helps to dictate the political agenda and, of course, generates some controversy from its reports. Therefore, the highest point of the FCP till now, for me, was the discussion of “Media, ethics and freedom of speech’’ that we had with Mr. Risto Uimonen, a well known journalist and Chairman on the Council for Mass Media in Finland. He explained in such a nice way the importance of the Self Regulation of the Media to keep up a good standard and reliability of journalism.
I was already aware about the Finland feats on international rankings – it’s the best country in Education, the first one allowing women to vote, the less corrupt in the world, among so many other impressive achievements – but understanding how the media works in this context was an experience I would never had without this chance of being here discussing it.
Finland has a Council that really works – all of them are volunteers and the majority are representatives of the media (“otherwise it would be regulation dictated by the outsider”, said Mr. Uimonen). The coolest thing, that reflects the Finnish way of life, is that there is no financial punishment for the breach of the ethical code of the journalism guide book – kind of small and basic. The discussion is the essential point. For this nation, who takes the words so seriously, the public shame is the main form of punishment – and they are required to publish the decision. Isn’t it wonderful? We had the chance to think as the Council does about some media questions. We’ve talked about journalists rights to use freely the information published on Facebook; about the case Tony Halme, a Finnish wrestler and politician who was hardly criticized in a column after dying in 2010 and also about the decision of publishing or not some pictures of Princess Kate Middleton doing topless and Prince Harry having some fun naked with a girl. It was funny and enriching at the same time.
It is amazing for someone living in Brazil, where such an independent Council is still utopian, to watch how this model country is upholding the ethical principles. Even though nobody knows for sure where the boundaries of journalism are, in a democracy, if we want the media playing this vital role of monitoring, it must also be monitored somehow.
The icing on the cake was the interaction with my new and clever friends from so many nationalities, since the speech has sparked discussion and many of us could report – during the class and after it – how different countries as China, U.K., Argentina, Russia and Japan handle with their journalists, freedom and society. As I was wondering when I wrote my essay for the Embassy, the flux of ideas is being intense with this variety of culture and people – and it is always positive for those who have the responsibility of communication and have chosen Journalism because of the belief in its social responsible. We are here to understand this country, but what makes our bond stronger is the same passion to discover, report and inform what we judge public interest – and, just because of it, I can easily say this kind of interaction already worth all the kilometres travelled.