Welcome to the Seminar

Forsskål’s Mandate
250 years of Freedom of Information


Venue and time

2 May, 10:30-13:00, National Archives of Finland, Rauhankatu 17, Helsinki, Finland


  • UNESCO Chair in Freedom of Expression, Media Development and Global Policy
  • University of Gothenburg
  • National Archives of Finland


In 2016, the world commemorates the adoption of “His Majesty’s Gracious Ordinance Relating to Freedom of Writing and of the Press”, recognized today as the first press freedom law. The passage of the Ordinance in Sweden in 1766 (which during that time comprised today’s Sweden and Finland) was preceded by intense political and scholarly debate. Peter Forsskål, Swedish and Finnish scholar and one of Carl Linnæus’s most promising apostles, put himself in the center of that debate, when he published the pamphlet “Thoughts on Civil Liberty”, consisting of 21 paragraphs championing civil rights for everybody. Born in 1732 in what today is Finland, Forsskål believed that civil rights could be best defended by the institutions of “limited Government and unlimited freedom of the written word”.

Forsskål’s pamphlet had an immense impact on society and the course of history in Scandinavia and beyond. Some claim it paved the way for the proclamation of the American Declaration of Independence of 1776, and the French “Déclaration des droits de l’homme et du citoyen” of 1789. The panel will discuss Forsskål’s legacy, as well as its impact on contemporary press freedom and freedom of information legislation in Peter Forsskål’s home country and globally.

Speakers and presentations

  • Welcoming remarks by Päivi Happonen, Research Director, National Archives of Finland
  • Introduction by Ulla Carlsson, Professor and UNESCO Chair in Freedom of Expression, Media Development and Global Policy, University of Gothenburg
  • I cannot and should not imagine to be a member in such an unhappy realm where one could not even say, what freedom is by Ere Nokkala, Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Helsinki
  • Public access to official information in today’s Europe: What would Peter Forsskål say? by Helena Jäderblom, Judge, European Court of Human Rights
  • Freedom of Expression in Finland in 1766-2015 by Kaarle Nordenstreng, Professor Emeritus, University of Tampere
  • The global legacy of Peter Forsskål’s ideas by Stefan Eklund, Editor-in-Chief, Borås Tidning
  • Getting to know Peter Forsskål - learnings from Forsskål while making a radio programme about him by Harri Alanne, Journalist, YLE - Finnish Broadcasting Co.

Moderator: David Goldberg, Coordinator, Project Forsskål


27 April at the latest via email merja.hykkonen@arkisto.fi or by phone +358 29 533 7002.

Media enquirys

Marie Pelkonen, Head of Communications, National Archives of Finland, marie.pelkonen@arkisto.fi or +358 50 409 8983 

Learn more

Website: www.peterforsskal.com