A debate has erupted in Finland about the self regulatory guidelines of the media -- whether they hinder the distribution of information and weaken the competitive edge of traditional media against growing social media.
The issue came up after a group of young men with immigrant background were alleged of committing a serious crime in southern Finland in March.
The suspects' ethnic background and even names were spread in social media, but newspapers and radio broadcasts used mainly evasive expressions and apparently had to mention their ethnic background after the social media disclosed it.
Jaakko Lahteenmaa, a member of the management of the country's largest newspaper Helsingin Sanomat wrote in recent comments that social media creates new pressure for the traditional news services.
Lahteenmaa said if the guidelines prevent factual discussion, they should be revised.
According to traditional guidelines, the details of suspect criminals are not published in Finland if they pose no major threat to the whole society.
Risto Uimonen, chairman of the Finnish Council for Mass Media, told Xinhua that the guidelines only ban such disclosure of personal detail that is done with defamatory intent.
"The guidelines do not restrict orderly discussion," Uimonen said.
"They can be altered, if they are considered to be too restrictive," he noted. "In fact, numerous changes have been enacted over the years," he said.
Uimonen underlined that publicity given to an alleged or convicted criminal is often viewed as a kind of punishment.
"But the media is not part of the judicial system and publicity is subject to journalistic considerations," he noted.
Hanne Aho, chairman of the Union of Journalists in Finland, expressed concern with the apparent decline of the ability of the audience to understand the difference between social media and publishing.
"Professional media releases information that it has checked. Whatever is published in social media has no such validity," she told Xinhua.
Aho underlined the responsible role of professional media and said that the media should maintain the clear demarcation line between "citizen's journalism" and professional publishing of news and comment.
She did not oppose amendments of the internal guidelines "if they are too restrictive".
The Finnish Council for Mass Media is a self regulatory body representing publishers and journalists. It reviews complaints and gives decisions the participating media will have to publish.
As a way out of the situation, some media houses have separated the audience feedback sections on the Internet from the journalistic content and announced the citizens themselves are responsible for what they write, not the media house.