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Finland prime minister denies trying to limit press freedom

Associated Press Associated Press 30/11/2016

COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Finland's prime minister has denied trying to suppress news coverage about a reported conflict of interest involving him and his family but says he did send a bunch of emails on the topic.

Prime Minister Juha Sipila, who has been in power since 2015, has rejected claims of a conflict of interest over a contract awarded by a mine in eastern Finland to a steel company owned by his relatives. A report by public broadcaster YLE claiming a conflict of interest involving Sipila was removed Friday.

Sipila told a news conference Wednesday that he didn't try to influence YLE or limit press freedom in Finland, which ranks among the highest in the world. According to the Suomen Kuvalehtis news site, Sipila wrote some 20 emails to an unnamed reporter at YLE who wrote the stories, and to its chief editor Atte Jaaskelainen.

"I reacted emotionally because of what my family had been exposed to recently," Sipila told reporters, adding he hadn't been given "any opportunity Friday to comment on what had happened. That is why I criticized the YLE editor."

On the YLE website, Jaaskelainen denied that Sipila had tried to stop the articles, saying it was purely an editorial decision to remove the story.

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