Blogger sued for libel

(Following links are all in Finnish. Sorry.)

Ilkka Pöyry, the headmaster of the Muhos Korivaara school, who has been using (and approving) questionable methods to give fundamentalist religious schooling to kids in the elementary grades (3-4), has sued Jani of Marginaali for libel. (Well, not really sued, it's more like asking the police to look into the matter by claiming that a crime has occurred. I don't know the English words for that.)

While Jani's tone in expressing his opinion is, in my opinion, overly harsh, his feelings are understandable. Knowing Finnish mentality the situation has had to have been really bad, if multiple families have gone against the popular opinion in a small, Finnish rural town. The person who was supposed to investigate the matter within the town reported multiple attempts to prevent his work or to arrive at a certain conclusion, including a lawsuit by the same Ilkka Pöyry (which the police found unfounded). Even an expert group investigation was declared secret by the town council, though the conclusion was made public, and resulted in the Oulu regional government issuing a warning to the headmaster.

Now Mr. Pöyry seems to go around on a rampage, trying to fix his tarnished reputation by suing people who were angered by the news articles (not a smart tactic). It will be an interesting landmark case for Finnish bloggers, because if Jani is convicted, a great many people will have to start and bite their tongues. While Jani's language is harsh, it is not unheard of, and I've read far worse comments about other people in both blogs and the USENET newsgroups. Besides, Jani has written about it only once - some others have been doing it for years.

Update: The Enter-magazine wants to know why the Oulu police is telling Jani to remove the pages, as this is clearly unconstitutional? Only a court can order web pages to be shut down...

Update2: The story of askola.org is also worth reading. A local elected representative of Askola has been holding a column on the Internet, criticizing the Central party -lead town council, and was sued for slander. He was found guilty and was sentenced to 200,000 € worth of damages (which is very high in Finland), but has since appealed to the EU human rights court. The case seems otherwise pretty usual, petty Finnish local politics, but what is really odd is that apparently two separate courts refused to say exactly what he had done wrong and point out the parts of his writings that are libelous. That worries me a lot. Anyway, he has now decided to carry a video camera with him to the council sessions and tape everything, which seems to have a very calming effect on the sessions. I think this is a good example of the transparent society in action, and how it would benefit even on a local level.

Update3: The police has now instructed Jani to remove the offending material from the website according to the ".fi top level domain rules", which state that the police can ask for a suspension of a domain, if it's suspected to be used in crime. However, Jani's web site is under the ".net" -TLD, so to me this sounds awfully like an unlawful threat... What kind of police behaviour is this!?! "Remove the stuff or we'll shut you down completely!" What happened to "innocent until proven guilty"?

Update4: The media got interested as well. Tuomas Kilpi of Enter-magazine has asked the Finnish high-ranking police officials and the Ministry of Communication whether the Oulu police is within their jurisdiction to order arbitrary web sites to be closed down. Keep following the story.

Update5: Hello people from Boing Boing! Welcome to Finland :-). Jani has now an English version of the story for you.




Comments

I haven't been following the story, but it sounds like the word for the action in English would be 'inquiry'.

--80.186.152.184, 24-Feb-2005


VERY interesting story. Keep us updated Janne!!!

--Phil, 24-Feb-2005


Aikas perseestä moinen toiminta, suomi kun vielä ylpeilee sananvapaudellaan.

--Timo, 25-Feb-2005


No siis eihän tämä ole tyystin oikeuslaitosta kaatamassa, lähinnä ehkä koulutetaan yksittäisiä poliiseja oikeista menettelytavoista.

--JanneJalkanen, 25-Feb-2005


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