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Communication No. 61/1979: Finland, CCPR/C/15/D/61/1979, Leo R. Hertzberg, Uit Mansson, Astrid Nikula and Marko and Tuovi Putkonen, represented by SETA (Organization for Sexual Equality) v Finland, April 2, 1982

10.1 Concerning Leo Rafael Hertzberg, the Committee observes that he cannot validly claim to be a victim or a breach by the State party of his right under article 19 (2) of the Covenant. The programme in which he took part was actually broadcast in 1976. No sanctions were imposed against him. Nor has the author claimed that the programme restrictions as applied by FBC would in any way personally affect him. The sole fact that the author takes a personal interest in the dissemination of information about homosexuality does not make him a victim in the sense required by the Optional Protocol.

10.2 With regard to the two censored programmes of Mrs. Nikula and of Marko and Tuovi Putkonen, the Committee accepts the contention of the authors that their rights under article 19 (2) of the Covenant have been restricted. While not every individual can be deemed to hold a right to express himself through a medium like TV, whose available time is limited, the situation may be different when a programme has been produced for transmission within the framework of a broadcasting organization with the general approval of the responsible authorities. On the other hand, article 19 (3) permits certain restrictions on the exercise of the rights protected by article 19 (2), as are provided by law and are necessary for the protection of public order or of public health or morals. In the context of the present communication, the Finnish Government has specifically invoked public morals as justifying the actions complained of. The Committee has considered whether, in order to assess the necessity of those actions, it should invite the parties to submit the full text of the censored programmes. In fact, only on the basis of these texts could it be possible to determine whether the censored programmes were mainly or exclusively made up of factual information about issues related to homosexuality.

10.3 The Committee feels, however, that the information before it is sufficient to formulate its views on the communication. It has to be noted, first, that public morals differ widely. There is no universally applicable common standard. Consequently, in this respect, a certain margin of discretion must be accorded to the responsible national authorities.

10.4 The Committee finds that it cannot question the decision of the responsible organs of the Finnish Broadcasting Corporation that radio and TV are not the appropriate forums to discuss issues related to homosexuality, as far as a programme could be judged as encouraging homosexual behaviour. According to article 19 (3), the exercise of the rights provided for in article 19 (2) carries with it special duties and responsibilities for those organs. As far as radio and TV programmes are concerned, the audience cannot be controlled, in particular, harmful effects on minors cannot be excluded.

Individual opinion appended to the Committee’s views at the request of Mr. Torkel Opsahl:

Although I agree with the conclusion of the Committee, I wish to clarity certain points.

This conclusion prejudges neither the right to be different and live accordingly, protected by article 17 of the Covenant, nor the right to have general freedom of expression in this respect, protected by article 19. Under article 19 (2) and subject to article 19 (3), everyone must in principle have the right to impart information and ideas – positive or negative – about homosexuality and discuss any problem relating to it freely, through any media of his choice and on his own responsibility.

link to the full text of the Communication: