The Finnish government has found itself at the centre of a social media storm for proposing that the assembly act be amended to oblige the organiser of a public meeting to notify the police of the meeting at least three days, rather than six hours, prior to the meeting.
“What is wrong with this government?” Li Andersson, the chairperson of the Left Alliance, asked on Twitter.
“It has unveiled one proposal after another to limit the basic freedoms of citizens without any real analyses of their consequences for civil rights and privacy protection. This is not the way to go.”
Andersson argued that obliging the organiser of a public meeting to notify the police of the meeting is excessive in, for example, circumstances where citizens want to express their views on a topical question.
Antti Häkkänen (NCP), the Minister of Justice, responded to the controversy by reminding that the amendment seeks to ensure the authorities are able to secure the right of everyone to protest without the threat of disturbance or violence. The organisers of public meetings are currently required to notify the police of the meeting no later than six hours before the beginning of the meeting.
The government highlights in its proposal that the nature of protests has changed in recent years, particularly following the proliferation of social media.
“Social media makes it possible to organise rather large public meetings, including demonstrations, on a relatively short notice. Counter-demonstrations can similarly be organised rapidly. Demonstrations typically provoke counter-demonstrations, and major differences of opinion can lead – and have led – to clashes between the groups,” the proposal reads.
It also reminds that the authorities and organisers of public meetings need sufficient time to discuss re-locating or re-scheduling a meeting if several meetings are to occur simultaneously at a particular location. Outdoor meetings in public spaces may also necessitate special traffic arrangements or other police measures.
“The short notification period has also created work management challenges for the police, as it has to be able to allocate a sufficient number of officers to secure a meeting,” the proposal reads.
The legislative proposal has been submitted to experts and other stakeholders for comments.
Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Source: Uusi Suomi