Freedom of speech is a clear right for every Finn and for people throughout the world, at least where that freedom is not removed or limited. However, freedom of speech is limited for speech that is racist or fraudulent. There are also limits where untruthful statements can cause financial or reputational damage – the speaker is then liable for criminal charges or for fines.
Freedom of speech is also permitted for business and political leaders, but they may end up regretting making such statements if they prove unpopular with customers or voters.
Making deliberate an untruthful statements, as described in the recent FinnishNews story about Mr. Boris Johnson concerning the savings of Brexit. He repeated statements can mean that he ends up being prosecuted for a crime!
Now, we have an interesting case in Finland where our Foreign Minister travelled to Canada on official business. His trip was paid for by the Finnish taxpayers. During it he attended an anti-abortion meeting and followed the meeting by a blog calling Argentina “a fine country” for refusing to allow legal abortions. Finnish government policy is in favour of legal abortions and nobody doubts for a moment that he was acting in a purely personal capacity, but as one of Finland’s most senior ministers and an important Finnish public official, few people outside Finland would know that.
It looks like Parliament will vote on his suitability to continue to hold public office as a MP and minister. The second shocking thing about this story is that the PM has backed his Foreign Minister rather than censoring him. The Attorney General has stated that there Foreign Minister has acted problematically rather than illegally.
Senior politicians must face the music when they express opinions or make dubious statements about sensitive matters. The Foreign Minister has not yet drifted into Trumpland, but Trumpland is already sowing the seeds of distrust here too.
The present government has a wafer thin majority in Parliament and the election is coming in 6 months time. The Foreign Minister and his mutineering party, the Future Blues, have little hope of securing more than one seat in the new Parliament out of 19 seats at the moment according to the latest polls. That they will be punished by voters, is some relief for democracy when it is abused.