Principles of media communication

When communicating with the public, the Prosecutor’s Office is primarily guided by the Code of Criminal Procedure, the Personal Data Protection Act and the Public Information Act.

The aim of the Prosecutor’s Office in communication with the public is:

  • to provide information on criminal proceedings and criminal offences as far as it is justified,
  • ensure confidence in the criminal justice system,
  • increase awareness of law among the public,
  •  explain the nature of the work of prosecutors and the Prosecutor’s Office.

The Prosecutor’s Office distributes preventive messages to prevent people from becoming victims of crime and committing offences. The Prosecutor’s Office follows the principles of democratic and social rule of law and an open society.

Information concerning pre-trial proceedings is disclosed by the Prosecutor’s Office. Information concerning pre-trial proceedings may only be disclosed with the permission of and to the extent specified by the Prosecutor’s Office and in accordance with the terms and conditions set out in subsection 214 (2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure

  • The information to be disclosed may not unlawfully harm anyone’s family and private life and must be in line with the presumption of innocence.
  • When disclosing procedural information (including images and video footage) during criminal proceedings, specific persons may not be identifiable, except where this is necessary in the interests of the proceedings or the public.
  • Generally, the information is limited to the person’s first name, gender and age. Their first name is not disclosed if there is reason to believe that they would be identifiable if it were disclosed.
  • When disclosing procedural information concerning minors, the interests of the minor must be a primary consideration and their anonymity must be guaranteed. Where possible, underage victims and suspects are not identified for the public and the information will be limited to their gender and age. According to the code of ethics of journalists, children should normally be interviewed in the presence of their parent or an adult responsible for them, and when publishing material about offences, court cases or accidents, journalists must consider whether it is strictly necessary to identify the parties involved and what kind of suffering they may be subjected to.
  • In the stage of forwarding a criminal case to the court, the name of the accused legal person may be disclosed as long as it does not unduly damage their activities.
  • Where possible, decisions or information affecting the rights or interests of a person are communicated to the person concerned before disclosure.
  • When publishing procedural decisions, the possibilities for appeal are presented.
  • The information disclosed objectively reflects the role of investigative authorities in the conduct of the preliminary investigation.
  • Communication with the public is coordinated by the Public Relations Department at the Prosecutor’s Office, which also ensures the day-to-day organisation of media communication.
  • Journalists should address their enquiries to the Public Relations Department or press advisers. If a journalist contacts a prosecutor directly, the prosecutor has the right to refer the journalist to the Public Relations Department or a press adviser by informing them of this.
  • Enquiries from journalists are answered within a reasonable time. If it is not possible to reply to an enquiry within one working day, the journalist will be informed of the time they will receive a response. If it is not possible to reply to the enquiry at all, the reasons for this are explained.

In general, communication with the public takes place by responding to enquiries from journalists.

The Prosecutor’s Office informs the public on its own initiative about criminal proceedings and offences in the course of pre-trial proceedings, if:

  • it is in the interest of criminal proceedings (e.g. finding wanted persons, looking for victims or witnesses, etc.);
  • the criminal proceedings or the offence have previously justifiably been of interest to the public or this may be expected (e.g. in the case of important criminal proceedings in a priority area, a serious crime committed in a public place, procedural operations carried out in a public place, etc.);
  • it is necessary to send messages aimed at prevention;
  • it is necessary to refute false or one-sided information that is or may be distributed among the public.

The public will be informed of a criminal case being forwarded to the court and briefly of the content of the charges on the own initiative of the Prosecutor’s Office if it has previously attracted justified public interest or if it is an important criminal case in a priority area. Charges announced at a public hearing can also be subsequently disclosed to journalists.

A sentence requested by the prosecutor or agreed in a plea agreement procedure is not commented on before the relevant request is made at the hearing.

Orders for the termination of criminal proceedings issued on the basis of the principle of discretionary prosecution (sections 202 and 203 of the Code of Criminal Procedure) are made public in the public document register of the Prosecutor’s Office. Orders to terminate criminal proceedings made before 1 January 2010 on the same grounds will be made public if a request for information is submitted.

In the case of refusal to commence or termination of criminal proceedings on any other grounds provided for by law, the notice of refusal to commence criminal proceedings or the order of termination of proceedings is made public upon the submission of a request for information, unless this is contrary to subsection 214 (2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure. If it is not possible to publish such order or notice in full, it must be considered whether it is possible to disclose it in part, e.g. by replacing personal data or by redacting certain parts.

The substantive materials of a criminal file are generally not disclosed when a request for information is submitted, as sorting the material and redacting data not subject to disclosure pursuant to subsection 23 (2) of the Public Information Act is too labour-intensive.

From the moment a file is archived, the publication of the materials of the file is no longer regulated by the Code of Criminal Procedure, and the Archives Act must be primarily taken as a basis in conjunction with the Public Information Act. Decisions concerning restrictions on access to archived material and the release of such material are taken by the holder of the information, i.e. the authority where the archived file is located, which is also responsible for their lawfulness.

The Prosecutor’s Office informs the public on its own initiative about important events related to the Prosecutor’s Office (election of the prosecutor of the year, etc.).