Far-right politician Huhtasaari and the PS pull one of the oldest tricks on the media

by , under Enrique Tessieri

Anti-immigration Perussuomalaiset (PS)* vice president, Laura Huhtasaari, hit the jackpot when she attacked a Finnish school project in Tampere for “encouraging hatred.” The poster made by teenage students pitted herself and the PS’ chairperson, Jussi Halla-aho, against President Sauli Niinistö and Green Alliance MP Pekka Haavisto with the following question: towards Finland, or towards death?   

She claims without offering proof in a tweet below that “a number of students” of the school have contacted her and told her how teachers there spread hate speech and encourage hatred of politicians who were elected democratically. She continues: “This happens at an elementary and high school. The picture [below] is from a [name of school omitted] in #Tampere.”

As a result of Huhtasaari’s tweet, the school has received hate mail and even had to hire security guards to guarantee the students’ safety.

Johanna Loukaskorpi, the mayor of Tampere, said that politicians should not interfere with what is taught at school based on a curriculum.

”I think it’s most unfortunate that an MP would highlight an individual school and students in a tweet to promote her political ideology,” she was quoted as saying in the Independent. “I personally think that the poster was quite effective in that it made an impact and is thought-provoking. The school can now discuss how much of an impact a single poster can have or how an image can spread through social media to an incredible extent.”


Read the full story (in Finnish) here.

Islamophobic and anti-immigration politicians and parties like the one Huhtasaari is vice presiden of use the same trick over and over again.

A politician makes an outrageous claim to a journalist, who doesn’t even bother to question its veracity. Eventually, the journalist may do some investigating and find out that he or she was fed malarkey. By then it’s too late because the story is already out there.

While coverage of Finland’s far right and Islamophobia have improved from the last decade, Finnish journalism still has a long way to go to provide fair and balanced reporting on these topics.

Below are some common mistakes by the Finnish media when reporting on migration and minorities:

  • White sources are always used as authorities when immigrants and minorities are the topic;
  • Editors of Finland’s main dailies are white Finns;
  • Immigrant and visible minority voices are rarely if ever permitted to make their case;
  • Editors too often ask white experts – rarely if ever migrant or minority experts –  their view of the “immigrant problem;”
  • We give inflated respectability and importance to racists because they mirror our attitudes;
  • In Finland, the stronger racism became, the more airtime it gets;
  • The rise of racism in our society and our coverage of it reveals how unbalanced and uncritical our media is;
  • When it comes to fighting racism, the media are part of the problem.

 

Huhtasaari’s stunt has even given her exposure abroad in publications like the Independent and BBC.

News Now writes: “MEP Hala-aho has twice been convicted of race-bait crimes by a Finnish court; and Huhtasaari used evocative anti-immigrant imagery in her most recent election campaign. An August investigation by the University of Jyväskylä also found that she plagiarised up to 80% of parts of her master’s thesis.”

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