Posti has decided not to publish ‘freedom of speech stamps’, which depict contrasting motifs in an attempt to represent the notion of free speech. This decision was made after consulting the Postiraati (stamp committee), which is made up of both Posti employees and members of the public.
Many of the members of the Postiraati were confused by stamps featuring animal protection and immigration, and some considered the image motifs insulting, failing to understand the connection of the stamps with freedom of speech. The freedom of speech motif was featured in the stamps using five different themes:
a fox representing animal rights;
different meals on a plate for differences in income;
graffiti juxtaposing with opera displaying cultural values;
wind power and nuclear power depicting different forms of energy;
birch combined with a person dressed in a burqa/niqab for immigration and multiculturalism.
The stamp sheet already ignited discussion before its publication due to perceived ambiguity of the relationships displayed on each stamp. In response to concerns, Posti conducted a survey of the proposed stamps with its customers, which was then analysed and discussed by Postraati. The report from Postiraati indicated that people held widely differing opinions, particularly concerning the stamp representing immigration. Almost half of the respondents were confused about the immigration stamp. Approximately one fourth of the respondents had a negative attitude about the stamp, and only a small minority held a positive attitude, with a quarter remaining neutral. More than 150 replies were obtained in the inquiry. Posti’s decision was further reinforced by concerns about hate speech in response to the stamps.
[alert type=white ]Almost half of the respondents were confused about the immigration stamp.[/alert]
According to Kaj Kulp, chairman of the stamp committee, Posti’s decision was based on serious concern about the impression communicated by the immigration stamp and its potential to aggravate confrontation. “According to the feedback we received, it was suspected that the stamp would insult Finns, Muslims, women, and immigrants. In addition, some of the respondents connected the stamp to violence, i.e. a gun barrel. We want to bear the responsibility, and therefore decided not to publish the stamp sheet. We do not want to increase unnecessary confrontation in this era,” Kulp says in a bulletin.
The intention of Ville Tietäväinen, the designer of the stamp, was to depict immigration as one of the themes that have led to the discussion about freedom of speech in Finland. The intention with the stamp itself was not to take a stance on immigration, nor represent a positive or negative statement on different cultures or religions.
According to Kulp, work on planning the stamps already began a year and a half ago, when the national political climate was quite different in Finland. “The freedom of speech also involves responsibility for social debate. The decision was based on serious consideration – we do not want to create confrontation or allow hate speech. We are a strongly multicultural company. Posti’s employees in Finland represent more than 80 nationalities,” Kaj Kulp says.
The subjects of Posti’s stamps are selected on the basis of general interest, after consultation with Postraati. After the subject has been chosen, the Art committee selects a graphic designer and then assigns the work.