By Enrique Tessieri
How seriously should we take a person who threatens your life for what you write? What does he or she tell us about our society and should we expose that person’s threats? Will bringing to public light such threats strengthen or weaken our Nordic democracy and society?
I have worked as a foreign correspondent in countries that have seen their fair share of armed strife: the dirty war of Argentina (1976-83) and the over fifty-year civil war of Colombia. Even so, the only country where I had gotten death threats is Finland.
Contrary to Argentina and Colombia, the death threats that I got were for the same reason: exposing the dark side of our society, or racism.
The first death threats I got were in the early 1990s for writing an extensive report in Apu magazine on the reaction that a refugee center had caused on my hometown of Mikkeli. Fortunately my daughter, who was about seven years old at the time, did not answer the phone. My wife did and the message she got was pretty straightforward: “Tell your your husband that will kill him if continues to write about about Somalis [refugees].”
Another call I got because of that same story insulted me anonymously over the phone.
The latest death threat I got came in the fall after I published an opinion piece on Savon Sanomat in November. The handwritten note, which was put in our mail box, insinuated that the column I wrote could “be dangerous for my health.”
Another case this month was by a person who is apparently very angry at Migrant Tales for disagreeing with his simplistic views of immigrants. He appears to be a regular visitor of the anti-immigration hate site, Hommaforum.
To give you an example of the level of harassment, he wrote an email to the whole staff of an institute where I have done research telling them how bad of a person I am and how he is going to sue me for slander.
He writes in the same email: “Correct the facts in an additional article [I wrote] in Suomen Kuvalehti accompanied by an apology on Migrant Tales to all your bloggers who you [and your friends associates] have targeted your INSULTS on. Make it detailed and quick or I will make the correction myself.”
One of the matters that all these threats have in common is that the those making them have no respect for other people’s right to express themselves freely in our society.
But the question we should ask is what do we gain by exposing publicly such threats and demands?
We live in very peculiar political times. The fact that we have politicians in parliament that are openly hostile to immigrants and cultural diversity is a cause for concern.
Personally I have never seen so much open hostility against immigrants and political chicanery in Finland as today. If we permit this type of behavior to be the norm in our society, we will relinquish and leave to chance the future of our Nordic democratic institutions and the values that have made us such a successful society today.
One of the greatest values we should defend tooth and nail is social equality for all, or tasa-arvo.
Those that attack our values and threaten us anonymously by taking the law in their hands should be exposed. By revealing their threats and deranged world we allow ourselves to be reminded that we cannot take our Nordic way of life and society for granted.