Pirkanmaa Fund of the Finnish Cultural Foundation: FREEDOM OF SPEECH EVENT IN TAMPERE  – Welcome to Freedom 2023

An international freedom of speech event will be held for the first time in Tampere in 2023, after which the event is scheduled to take place every two years. The aim is to promote freedom of speech wherever it is in jeopardy.

A high-level international event will be organised in Tampere in 2023 to highlight freedom of speech as a core European value without which democracy and the rule of law cannot survive. Finland’s strong track record in defending freedom of speech and human rights provides an excellent basis for Tampere to support freedom of speech in practical terms.

Every event will be organised around a different keynote speaker. The keynote speaker will be a person who, through their own words and actions, has brought about significant change in freedom of speech internationally, especially over the past two years.

The keynote speaker will be offered a platform and an opportunity to make a Tampere Declaration on Freedom of Speech in the form of a speech or a performance, and the rest of the programme will be arranged around their message. The event will also include panel discussions and speeches which will delve into the issues raised in the declaration.

The event will be recorded and broadcast on multiple channels. Yle, the Finnish Broadcasting Company, has expressed interest in televising the main event. Finnish and foreign media will be offered the widest possible opportunities to attend and convey the message of the Declaration of Freedom of Speech from Tampere onwards.

The need for a freedom of speech event became evident at the beginning of the COVID pandemic in 2020, when people across Europe and the world were threatened because they were exercising their right to speak freely. For example, in the autumn of 2020, thousands of people in Belarus, near Finland and Central Europe, faced death threats, threats of violence by the authorities and long prison sentences after their criticism of the manipulated and violent presidential elections.

The idea of a freedom of speech event was first made public when Tampere applied to become a European Capital of Culture in 2026. The planning of the event will continue as part of the Operation Pirkanmaa project, as the themes of freedom of speech, democracy and human rights are increasingly topical – not least since Russia launched its war of aggression against Ukraine in February 2022.

The event will be organised thanks to the Finnish Cultural Foundation’s Pirkanmaa Fund, within whose Management Board the initiative was first developed by Matti Posio, head of the editorial staff at the Lännen Media media house. The event is being supported by the Finnish Foundation for the Promotion of Journalistic Culture (JOKES) and the Finnish chapter of Reporters Without Borders.