#Finland’s freelancers battling giant publishing bully

The headquarters of OP-Pohjola Group and the r...

The headquarters of OP-Pohjola Group and the regional headquarters of Sanoma Magazines (a division of Sanoma Group) in Niemenmäki, Helsinki, Finland. Suomi: OP-Pohjola ryhmän pääkonttori ja Sanoma Magazinesin Suomen pääkonttori Niemenmäessä, Helsingissä. Français : Le siège du groupe OP-Pohjola et le siège régional des magazines Sanoma (division du groupe Sanoma) à Niemenmäki, Helsinki, Finlande. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Finnish freelance photographers and writers have defied Sanoma Magazines Finland (SMF) and refused to sign the publisher’s terms of contract. The company threatens to no more give them work.

Linus Atarah March 2012, Suomen Journalistiliitto

With strong backing from the Union of Journalists, over 300 freelance photographers and journalists have signed a petition not to work for Sanoma Magazines under the terms of the current contract which seek to expropriate all copyrights to their works with no compensation.

And the action seems to be paying off. According to various sources, chief editors and senior editorial staff of the publisher have had difficulties finding photographers for many of their publications, and last week began contacting individual freelancers in order to recruit them.

However, those contacted told the Union of Journalists they were prepared to work for Sanoma Magazines occasionally but have refused to sign the contract.

Only about 30 photojournalists have agreed to the terms of the contract and have signed the agreement.

The company’s attitude towards freelancers appears to be causing division within the house. The union chapter in SMF sent a letter to the leadership of the company last month – which is considered a polite show of lack of confidence – questioning the company’s hardline stand not to negotiate with freelancers at all on the terms of the contract.

The Union chapter expressed concern over the impact on the quality and work process of the publications if contacts with established freelancers are severed. The Union chapter said they would also like to be informed on the financial and other justifications which lie behind this freelancers’ agreement.

In mid-December last year, Sanoma News Magazines unilaterally and with no prior consultation, sent out a contract to 700 hundred freelance journalists, photographers and graphic designers asking them to sign or else they cease working for the company.

The agreement confers all copyrights of material produced by freelancers on Sanoma Magazines who also retains the right to freely modify and sell it on to third parties without additional compensation to the original author of the work.

Part of the contract also demands that it is the responsibility of the freelancers to seek permission from their subjects for the unlimited use, including commercial use, of their interview or photographs.

And after the permission has been granted Sanoma Magazines then appropriates all the rights of the product which it can publish anywhere in the world without commensurate financial to the journalist or photographer.

“If you sign that paper then you have the responsibility over the publication of that image and whatever happens to it anywhere in the world, but they can sell it anywhere in the world and make money from it. You have the responsibility, they have the rights to 100 per cent of the money”, says Kari Kuukka.

Kuukka of Finnfoto, was speaking on a National Union of Journalists panel discussion at the Congress Centre on Friday.

According to Kuukka, the big publishing companies do not necessarily want to gain financial benefits from the material but rather to have control over when to publish it or whether it would be published at all.

For instance, if a sports photographer signs onto that agreement and later wants to document a sports book of his career, then that would no longer be possible because he cannot use his own pictures for anything commercial, Kuukka says.

According to Kuukka, the annual turnover of the creative sector in Finland is 1.5 billion Euros. The figure is from 2008.

“It is bigger than our forest industry, it is bigger than our tourist industry, it is a huge amount of money and now some huge corporations are taking all the rights to manage that because they get to keep 100 per cent of the profits”, he says.

According to him, SMF and other big publishing houses are cashing in on the current financial dire straits in the printing industry to exploit poor journalists who have no work.

There is also a loophole in the law which is being exploited by the big publishing houses. A majority of the photographers are sole entrepreneurs, and under current legislation, uniting as a single negotiating force would be illegal because they would be considered a cartel.

“You cannot unite with other companies even though you are one single person, and negotiating with a company with 2.5 billion euros turnover when your own turnover is measured in tens of thousands, is a bit uneven stance”, to say the least, says Kuukka.

However, Jukka Liedes, director of cultural policy and copyright issues at the Ministry of Education says that it may not be necessary to change the legislation on cartels in order to accommodate the rights of independent journalists and photographers.

He instead advised that independent photographers could form their own professional association like other creative workers to defend their interests.

However, most freelance photographers are part of the nearly 16000 membership of the Union of Journalists in Finland which has consistently fought for their interests.

The Union has sought for and obtained a mandate to negotiate on behalf of freelance journalists and photographers in previous disputes with Sanoma Magazines but the company has been intransigent.

“Sanoma Magazines is the biggest publishing house in Finland and the fifth largest in Europe and thus with loads of people dying to work for them they are not willing to negotiate because they hold the thumbscrew”, says Kuukka.

“They are in position to say, ‘sign this, we take your rights but we give you a little bit of money’, and sure someone is always willing to work”, he says.

#Somalia: 25 Journalists Arrested, 4 Still Held, TV Station Closed


Reporters Without Borders is worried by events of the past week affecting the media in the breakaway northwestern territory of Somaliland, in which a total of 25 journalists were arrested and a television station, HornCable TV, was closed in Hargeisa, the territory’s capital.

The organization accuses the authorities to trying to intimidate the media and calls for the release of four journalists still being held illegally.

“This wave of arrests of journalists is without precedent in Somaliland,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We are disturbed by this crackdown and by the president’s readiness to brand a media as a ‘nation destructor.’ This will further intimidate journalists who already have to cope with tough conditions in this region of Somalia. We urge the authorities to free the four journalists still being held and to reopen HornCable TV without delay.”

When HornCable TV employees demonstrated outside the presidential palace in Hargeisa yesterday in protest against the station’s closure, they were attacked and beaten by members of the Somaliland Special Protection Unit and eight of them were arrested. The eight detainees, all journalists, were Nimco Sabriye, Hamsa Ali Bulbul, Mohamed Gurashe, Abdirahman Sheik Yunes, Ayan Diriye, Nimo’ Diriye, Hodan Ali Ajabi and Safiya Nuh Sheikh.

Thirteen other journalists from various media who went to help their detained colleagues were then also arrested. HornCable TV’s owner was summoned to the president’s office later yesterday and interrogated. The detained journalists, who included six women, were taken to police headquarters in Hargeisa and were finally released today on interior minister Mohamed Nour Arale’s orders, after being held for more than 24 hours.

HornCable TV was closed on 14 January when around 100 policemen arrived in seven armoured vehicles, ordered all the staff to leave and sealed the doors. The transmitter was disconnected soon afterwards. The officer in charge of the raid, Mohamed Du’alle, admitted he did not have a warrant but said he was acting on orders from superiors. Mohamed Abdi Sheik, HornCable TV’s East Africa director, was briefly detained during the operation.

In an address to parliament earlier the same day, Somaliland President Ahmed Mohamed Siilaanyon described HornCable TV as a “nation destructor” and accused it of broadcasting anti-government propaganda.

The government’s anger was reportedly aroused by the station’s coverage of a tribal meeting in Taleh district of Sool region, in which representatives of various tribes announced the creation of an autonomous administration in the region. The interior minister confirmed that this was the reason, and said the station’s licence had been withdrawn for “anti-Somaliland propaganda.”

The four journalists who are still detained were arrested in series of incidents from 8 to 11 January.

Ali Ismail Aare, a reporter for the weekly Waheen, was arrested on 11 January for taking photos of a service station and a building belonging to Somaliland Vice-President Abdirahman Abdilahi. Mohamed Omar Sheikh, a reporter for the weekly Saxafi, was arrested the same day for writing articles that were deemed likely to create conflict in the Awdal region.

Abdqani Hassan Farah, a Universal TV reporter in Las Anod district of Sool region, was arrested with two colleagues from HornCable TV and Somaliland TV on 9 January. The other two were freed after a few hours but Farah, also known as Gadari, is still being held on a charge of “exaggerating reports of a meeting that created instability in the Sool, Sanag and Eyn regions.” It was a meeting of the Taleh tribes the day before. His arrest was reportedly arranged by Sool’s governor on the orders of Somaliland information minister Ahmed Abdi Habsade.

On 9 January, Somaliland police also prevented four journalists from attending the laying of fibre-optic cable by SomCable Ltd that will enable the territory to be connected with the outside world via Djibouti. It has been the source of a great deal of controversy as it was authorized by the previous government and rejected by the new one.

Finally, Yusuf Abdi Ali, a reporter better known as Indho Quruh who works for London-based Royal TV, was arrested without a warrant in the Borame district of the city of Awdal on 8 January after being accused by a local NGO, Africa Youth Development Association, of making false allegations of corruption and management problems in local development projects. He is still being held in the Borame district police station. He has not been charged and has not been able to see a lawyer.

This is the list of 21 journalists who were arrested on 15 January and were freed the next day:

1. Mohamud Abdi Jama, editor-in-chief, Waaheen newspaper 2. Mohamed Omar Abdi, editor-in-chief, Jamhuuriya newspaper 3. Ahmed Aden Dhere, reporter, Haatuf newspaper 4. Mohamed Said Harago, head of news, Berberanews 5. Najah Adan Unaye, director, Hadhwanaagnews 6. Suhur Barre, reporter, HornCable TV 7. Abdiqani Abdullahi Ahmed, reporter, Hadhwanaagnews 8. Mohamed Ahmed Muse, reporter, HornCable TV 9. Mohamed Fayr, reporter, Geeska Africa newspaper 10. Saleban Abdi Ali Kalshaale, reporter, Waaheen newspaper 11. Khalid Hamdi Ahmed, reporter, Waaheen newspaper 12. Nimo Omar Mohmed Sabriye, presenter, HornCable TV 13. Hamsa Ali Bulbul, reporter, HornCable TV 14. Mohamed Ahmed Muse Kurase, reporter, HornCable TV 15. Abdirahman Sheik Yunes, presenter, HornCable TV 16. Ayan Diriye, reporter, HornCable TV 17. Nimo’ Diriye, reporter, HornCable TV 18. Hodan Ali Ajabi, reporter, HornCable TV 19. Safiya Nuh Sheikh, presenter, HornCable TV 20. Ahmed Abdirahman Hersi, news editor, HornCable TV 21. Jama Omar Abdullahi, reporter, Waaheen newspaper


via allAfrica.com: Somalia: In Past Week in Somaliland, 25 Journalists Arrested, Four Still Held and TV Station Closed.