Swedes, Finns Planning 1766/2016 Anniversary

18 November 2015

The Swedish and Finnish governments, and others, are making plans to celebrate passage 250 years ago of the world’s first freedom of information law.

Celebratory events will be listed on two new websites in the lead-up to the official anniversary date of Dec. 2, 2016. Because Finland was part of Sweden at the time, the anniversary of the Freedom of The Press Act of 1766 is being celebrated in both countries. The law abolished censorship of books and newspapers and required authorities to provide public access to all official records.

A main event of the anniversary year will be the World Press Freedom Day Conference, to be held in Helsinki, Finland, and being organized by UNESCO and Finnish Ministry for Education and Culture, May 2-4, 2016. UNESCO WPFD is May 3 (see UNESCO WPFD 2016 website).

WPFD 2016 will focus on access to information and a culture of transparency, the theme being “This Is Your Right! Access to Information and Fundamental Freedoms,” according to Juha Mustonen, Secretary General of the 250 Council and SG of the Anders Chydenius Foundation. “The Finn Anders Chydenius was one of the most notable politicians of eighteenth century Sweden-Finland,” the website says, and sponsored the act as a Finnish member of the Swedish Diet.

Mustonen said the theme of whole year will be “Right to Know, Right to Say.” The year will be launched on the Finnish-Swedish Right to Say Seminar, Dec. 4, 2015, at which the Speaker of Parliament of Finland, Maria Lohela together with Minister for Education and Culture Sanni Grahn-Laasonen will address the current challenges of Chydenius’ legacy and freedom of information. A website, www.painovapaus250.fi, (not open yet) will go live on Dec. 4, 2015, Mustonen said.

The Swedish National Library has recently opened a website called frittord250.se (only partially in English). An explanation says:

The website Frittord250.se serves as a node for sharing information about activities and providing access to resources in celebration of these 250 year old freedoms of information and free press in Sweden. Various governmental agencies, NGO’s, interest groups and individuals mark the celebratory year 2016 with a rich program aimed at drawing attention to free speech and the right of access to information in Sweden and in the global community, historically, today and tomorrow. Frittord250 serves also as a repository for documentation of activities surrounding the celebratory year 2016. Resources ranging from introductory background texts and primary source materials are compiled, and contact information for individuals who have expressed willingness to provide some form of guidance in the planning of activities is provided as well.

News on the sestercentennial will also be available on Addeto, managed by the Swedish-Finnish Cultural Foundation (only partially in English).

Volume Being Prepared

The parliaments of Sweden and Finland are preparing a book that will be presented at a seminar in Stockholm on Dec. 2. The book will contain some 25 articles about the origins of the Freedom of The Press Act of 1766 and the resulting “living heritage.” It will be published in Finnish and Swedish with a summary in English. (A Canadian academic librarian has organized an online petition to urge full translation in English.) The project is headed by Bertil Wennberg, former head of staff of the Committee on the Constitution of the Swedish Parliament, Riksdage.

In Finland, the anniversary year is being coordinated by a council consisting of different stakeholders from academia, civil society, media, business community as well as public administration, like the Finnish Parliament, Ministry for Education and Culture as well as Ministry for Foreign Affairs. This council was convened by Anders Chydenius Foundation and Helsingin Sanomat Foundation.

In a related celebration, a plaque commemorating Peter Forsskal (1732-1763) was unveiled in Goettingen, Germany, on Nov. 6, 2015, as part of symposium that included a seminar on the influence of the Swedish explorer and early thinker and writer about civil liberties.

A “side event” hooked on Forsskal, but casting the net wider and in a more contemporary vein, is being planned around the WPFD events.

A variety of other activities are in the planning stages. FreedomInfo.org welcomes contributions about other 1766/2016 activities.


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