UPDATE (December 5): Migrant Tales’ 2015 Hall of Poor and Sloppy Journalism

by , under Enrique Tessieri

How does the Finnish media give politicians that spread xenophobia and racism inflated respectability and importance? How can they  spread their prejudices and lies about immigrants and minorities without the help of the media? Migrant Tales will begin to collect stories from January 7 written by careless journalists that have been taken for a ride by such politicians.

It’s one of the oldest tricks in the books used against journalists:  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.

Migrant Tales will send each story that appears in our Hall of “Fame” to the journalist who wrote the story.

There are so many of these types of stories published by the media that compiling a long list in a short time would be relatively easy. It’s important, however, to reveal media bias when reporting stories about migrants and minorities.

This video clip is one of the best that I’ve seen of how politicians with racist agendas took British journalists for a ride in the 1970s and 1980s. Watch video clip here.
Below is an example of good journalism when HARDtalk host Stephen Sackur grilled Perussuomalaiset (PS)* chairman Timo Soini.  Two times the same interview has been taken down from YouTube. 

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

To see this incredible interview with this so-called “terrorism analyst or expert” click here. Fox News apologizes on January 18 for this so-called terrorist expert’s claims.

The 2015 Hall of Poor and Sloppy Journalism

Date & story

December 5

Lähde vahvistaa: Suomessa majailee kolme kovan luokan terroristia (Iltalehti)

What’s wrong with this story? Finland’s two tabloids, Iltalehti and Ilta-Sanomat, are not an example of mediocre journalism but of commonly spreading bigotry, reinforcing racism and fear-mongering. Ilta-Sanomat did this in the early 1990s when the first Somalis came to Finland. Migrant Tales has published some billboards of those years. Here’s one story below where Iltalehti claims that “sources confirm” that there are three hardcore terrorists in Finland. Nowhere do we get a hint of the source or why the tabloid decides to keep his or her name anonymous. Considering the xenophobia, hostility and the burning of two asylum reception centers in Finland, and ceaseless fear-mongering taking place in the media and social media forums, this type of journalism is not only irresponsible but puts at risk the safety of migrants and asylum seekers in Finland. By inciting fear we encourage violence. Terrible and irresponsible journalism at its worst.

Näyttökuva 2015-12-5 kello 12.55.50

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December 1

Two rape stories weighed differently – (Helsingin Sanomat)*

What’s wrong with these two stories? Helsingin Sanomat, Finland’s largest daily, published two rape stories Tuesday. One, which got half of a spread, was about an alleged rape that was committed by a suspected asylum seeker in a Helsinki park. The other, which was a brief, was about a white Finnish man who got sentenced for raping a drunk fifteen-year-old. Why did the story with the asylum seeker get more attention than the one with the Finnish man, who got sentenced for raping a minor? The easiest answer is that Helsingin Sanomat, which should know better, doesn’t? Why? Because like some sectors of Finnish society it too is inflicted by racism. And why wouldn’t it be? Aren’t the reporters working for Helsingin Sanomat of everything that is good and bad about Finnish society? Finland’s largest newspaper’s poor, sloppy and opinionated journalism sheds light on a wider problem and how we condemn less rape committed by white Finns but demand blood if it is a migrant, refugee or asylum seeker. Sad but true.

* Thank you Reima Välimäki for bringing such double-standards to our attention on a Facebook posting

Näyttökuva 2015-12-1 kello 16.33.49

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November 20

Aukeavatko suvakin silmät? – (Tamperelainen)

What’s wrong with this community paper editorial? Community papers like Helsingin Uutiset and Vantaa Sanomat are just as bad as other media in spreading bigotry and urban tales about immigrants. They do this for two reasons: they don’t know better and because it’s a good way of boosting their advertising revenues. The editorial by the latest Tamperelainen spewed some pretty harsh rhetoric about asylum seekers. It claimed, among other things, that some asylum seekers are swindlers and that Europe should take a tougher stance against such people. The editorial by the paper’s editor, Karri Kannala, headlined “When will Kumbaya multiculturalists open their eyes,” claims the following: “Speaking of migration is racism, promoting Finnish identity is fascism. You can only talk about multiculturalism if you are a kumbaya multiculturalist, other opinions aren’t welcome.” Bigotry, racism and prejudice still attract big crowds in Finland. They are used by community papers as well and are an example of the worse type of journalism that you can find.

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October 25

Ensimmäiset pakolaiset olleet Suomessa jo yli 40 vuotta – vietnamilaiset sopeutuivat, somalit kohtaisivat ennakkoluuloja (Helsingin Sanomat)

What’s wrong with this story? For one the headline suggests that the first refugees that came to Finland was over 40 years. Wrong. The first big group of refugees that came to Finland was about 94 years ago in 1921, when some 6,500 Russians fled the Soviet Union from the island fortification of Kronstadt, located near St Petersburg.  By not investigating enough the reporter, Jukka Harju, reinforces some of the myths about Finland like so few have come here and so recently. What about during World War 2? Where the Ingrians that fled the former Soviet Union to Finland refugees like the 420,000 Karelians that were forced to abandon their homes after their lands were ceded to the USSR?

The Vietnamese, Chileans and Somalis that came here as refugees were just one out of many groups that moved to Finland after independence. They’re not the first. Another question that the reporter states is that the Vietnamese “adapted” while the Somalis faced “prejudices.” If the reporter would have done his work more carefully, he’d discover pretty rapidly that it wasn’t only prejudice that the Somalis faced, and still face, hostile endemic racism. Prejudice is, in my opinion, a too light word to describe the Somali experience in Finland. Didn’t the Vietnamese face any “prejudice?” What about the Chileans? A little digging would prove that all groups that come here have faced racism.

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October 14

Tänä vuonna Suomeen 10 000 laitonta pakolaista (Ilta-Sanomat)

What is wrong with this tabloid billboard? Ilta-Sanomat, which was responsible for spreading racism against Somalis in the early 1990s, is at it again. This billboard by the tabloid claims that this year “10,000 illegal refugees” will arrive in Finland. What is an illegal refugee anyway and can a refugee ever be “illegal” or undocumented? This kind of twisted logic, which was first heard from the Perussuomalaiset (PS)* a while back, is being parroted by the tabloid. Has anything changed in about 20 years if we look at the two billboards below when it comes to spreading racism and lies about refugees? 

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October 6

A2 Pakolais-ilta (YLE)

What was wrong with this television debate? Even if one of the hosts on the program was Wali Hashi, it was white Finns’ perceptions and opinions about asylum seekers coming to Finland and how they should integrate to our society. The term “integration” was mentioned a lot of times but it was code for assimilation, or one-way integration. Every form of prejudice Finland has about asylum seekers and migrants,  like they are criminals, rapists, social welfare bums and other labels, were pushed around freely during the one-sided debate. Forcing a refugee family to eat porridge and speaking of these people, who are also medics and university graduates, as helpless children who have to learn that zucchini is kesäkurpitsa in Finnish is beyond me.  The program did little to dispel the xenophobic climate in Finland but instead reinforced it by not challenging it. On top of this you had one National Coalition Party MP, Susanna Koski, and a pastor, Marjanna Toivianen, who still don’t know that the correct Finnish term for integration is kotoutuminen, not kotiutuminen, which means “coming home.” In 1998 Finland had to invent a new term for integration because none existed before that. That term is kotoutuminen.

If YLE cannot do a descent TV debate on our ever-growing culturally diverse society it should not do one at all.

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September 21

Iraqis on Facebook warn compatriots against coming to Finland – (YLE in English)

Why is this story an example of opinionated journalism? It’s clear that for some Finns, and especially for political parties like the Perussuomalaiset (PS)*, the humanitarian crisis has brought out the worst in them. There is no respect for human rights and people are seen as numbers with price tags. Anti-immigration sentiment is strong in this country. Immigration is seen by too many as a problem, not as an opportunity. That’s why you see the debate on asylum seekers shifting in the media from people fleeing war and poverty to human trafficking. The YLE story shows three ungrateful Iraqis that came here and now want to return back to their country. What do such thankless persons in the story signal to the reader? Is it that the three asylum seekers, as well as many others, that are coming to Finland from Iraq aren’t real refugees? Why would a person who’s seen war, members of his family killed and sold everything to move here would want  to return to Iraq? Why doesn’t the reporter write about the hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers who are fleeing war but cannot return home? The wish of the Iraqis to return home must be the same that the reporter has of them: Go back to where you came from.

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September 20

Nainen löi mustaa tyttöä pussissa Turussa  – (Turun Sanomat)

What’s wrong with this story? Here’s a news story about a black girl sitting with her two white Finnish friends in a bus. A white middle-aged Finnish woman approaches her and slaps her twice on the face. She then tells the black girl’s friends that they shouldn’t hang around with such a girl. Nobody on the bus said a word or raised a finger after the woman slapped the girl. Instead we read about excuses given by the reporter like the black girl was speaking too loud and that she is an adopted child. Why are these tidbits of information important? What happened to the little girl is unacceptable as was the shameful behavior of the passengers and driver, who decided to look the other way. Poor and shoddy journalism at its worse.

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August 30

Suomen Sisun jäsenmäärä räjähti – päivittää monitulkintaisena pidetyn periaateohjelmansa – (MTV3)

What’s wrong with this story? Let’s begin with the headline, which claims that membership of Suomen Sisu, a far right white Finnish supremacist association, has “soared.” What do they mean by “soared” anyway? The story claims that the association got 390 new members after Perussuomalaiset (PS)* MP Olli Immonen, who is chairman of Suomen Sisu, made his declaration of war in Facebook against “the nightmare of multiculturalism.” In my book 390 isn’t much unless you compare it with 100 members. Is that the case? Even so, 390 is a small amount that looks bigger and more sensational thanks to the term “soared.” Another problem with the story is the MTV3 reporter, who interviews Teemu Lahtinen, a former chairman and vice chairman of the association well known for his links with far right and neo-Nazi groups like Kansallinen Vastarintaliike, is that nowhere in the story does the journalist bother to question these facts critically never mind get in touch with other sources that could give some context concerning Suomen Sisu, Lehtinen and Immonen. This story is in my opinion an unfortunate example because it offers Suomen Sisu the opportunity to showcase itself as something “normal” when in fact its agenda is racist, far right and white Finnish supremacist. Lazy and uncritical journalism at its worst.

Some good advice to journalists: When interviewing people like Lahtinen and far right associations like Suomen Sisu, it’s important to be critical. Critical means asking uncomfortable questions and publishing them. It also means using other sources to balance the story. If you rubber stamp what the person says then you become a mouthpiece of these politicians and groups. You help spread their message of hate.

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August 28

Joka seitsemäs suomalainen on rasisti – tässä tuntomerkit (Suomen Kuvalehti)

What’s wrong with this story? Here’s a question to Suomen Kuvalehti: Why when speaking of immigration, cultural diversity and a poll about racist attitudes in Finland do you put a picture of a Muslim woman to go with the story?  It’s odd that almost every time we speak of immigration and cultural diversity in Finland the media often publishes a picture of a black person or Muslim woman. Why do they do this if the majority of immigrants that live in Finland are Europeans? While the poll by Suomen Kuvalehti on Finnish attitudes towards foreigners and racism is interesting, the story fails with the picture and reveals the newsmagazine’s prejudices. These types of pictures that are published with stories on our cultural diversity perpetuate urban tales and racism.

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August 20

Sarasvuo HSTV:ssä: Suomalaista kulttuuria uskallettava suojella islamilta (HSTV)

What’s wrong with this story? A lot.For one, the guests who speak about Islam and refugees to Europe appear not to have the faintest idea about what they are talking about never mind how cultural diversity works. In their small worlds immigration translates to Islam and people coming by boat to Europe. Former businessman Jari Sarasvuo, for example, claimed that Finnish culture must dare to protect itself from Islam. The other guest, Jari Ehrnrooth, believed that people from Islamic countries could never adapt to our Western way of life because they “live a thousand years” behind us in time. What did the host do during the show? He gave them the opportunity to spread their ignorance and prejudices to the viewers. If you’re guessing why Finland and the Nordic region is being threatened by populist anti-immigration parties, this show is a good example.

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July 22

Miksi mamulla on varaa merkkivaatteisiin? (Suomen Kuvalehti)

What’s wrong with this opinion piece? While the intentions of the journalist, Sami Kuusela, are noble he falls into a trap: he agrees 50/50 with what the racist claims.

We’ve written about Perussuomalaiset (PS) MP Jari Ronkainen in February, whose only merit to get elected was publishing a racist video about two migrants. In an interview on Lahti-based daily Etelä-Suomen Sanomat, Ronkainen admits that his claim that migrants get more social welfare than “ethnic” Finns is not based on hard fact but what he read on the Internet. National Coalition Party MP Pia Kauma pulled the same stunt last year. Kuusela claims in the opinion piece that one reason why migrants have more money to buy better clothes than so-called ethnic Finns is because many don’t drink. While this may be the case, is there any study that shows that migrants dress better or drink less than Finns? Why does Kuusela believe that migrants dress better than white Finns? Isn’t that reinforcing 50/50 an urban tale that Ronkainen is trying to capitalize on?

Another matter that raises some questions in Kuusela’s opinion piece is using the term mamu when he refers to migrants.

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July 20

HOK-Elanto bouncer under discrimination investigation (YLE)

What else could have been said? While this story is pretty clear and to the point about a discrimination case of a bouncer who claimed there was a quota of how many non-white customers could enter the restaurant, it’s unfortunate there’s no editorial or opinion-piece condemning what happened never mind giving a solution on how to challenge this type of blatant discrimination. Finnish journalism, like YLE, needs more teeth to question the complacent journalism we too often see in this country especially when it comes to writing about our ever-growing cultural diversity. The latter was reinforced by Michael Haltzel, who wrote the following about Perussuomalaiset (PS)* chairman and foreign minister, Timo Soini, whenever members of his party make racist and outrageous statements. Haltzel wrote: “The domestic press corps seems content to question him once, receive an evasive answer, and leave it at that.”

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July 4

Bloggaja väittää: Huhtasaari liittyi rasistiseen Facebook-ryhmään itse (Satakunnan Kansa)

What’s wrong with this story? This story by Pori-based daily Satakunnan Kansa is a good example of lazy journalism at its best. It is also an example of how some newspapers are reluctant to challenge politicians with xenophobic agendas. Perussuomalaiset (PS)* MP Laura Huhtasaari got her fingers burned this week when Helsingin Sanomat, Finland’s biggest daily, scooped that she was a member of a racist Facebook site that has pictures of black children in pales eating watermelon with the following text, “A bucketful of shit.” Huhtasaari accused without any evidence that Sakari Timonen, one of Finland’s best anti-racism bloggers, had tipped off Helsingin Sanomat and even hacked her profile on the racist Facebook page. Instead of stating that the blogger claims that Huhtasaari joined the Facebook site herself, why didn’t Satakannun Kansa ask an IT expert to resolve the matter? Under her profile picture on the Facebook site it read that Huhtasaari joined and was not joined by. Huhtasaari claims that her profile ended up on the Facebook site by somebody without her permission. Sounds fishy, especially coming from a declared anti-immigration politician like herself.

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June 10

Suurlähetystö joutuu selittelemään Timo Soinia: “Ymmärretään usein väärin täällä Saksassa  (Ilta-Sanomat)

What’s wrong with this story? The headline offers us an answer to the latter question why their new boss, Perussuomalaiset (PS)* Foreign Minister Timo Soini, is commonly misunderstood by the German media. What has the German media “misunderstood” about Soini? The Finnish embassy spokeswoman stated that the PS is commonly seen in a negative light by the German media and labelled as a far right party. In all of the seven German dalies quoted in the Ilta-Sanomat story, none of them claim that Soini’s party is “far right” but “right-wing populist” and “EU-skeptic.” If Ilta-Sanomat were interested in quality journalism it would ask why there is such a perception of the PS in the German media in the first place and are they wrong in claiming that it is a right-wing populist, anti-immigration and anti-EU party? A lot of stories and names could serve as sources to reinforce the latter: Jussi Halla-aho, Olli Immonen, Juho Eerola, Teuvo Hakkarainen, Olli SademiesTeemu LahtinenJussi Niinistö, Harri Tauriainen, Tommi Rautio, Tony Halme, Hanna MäntyläJames Hirvisaari, who was sacked from the party, and many, many others.

One of the reasons why Ilta-Sanomat is so interested in publishing these types of stories, and being the mouthpiece of the government, is that it assumes people don’t have a clue what parties like the PS say and do. Have their readers ever read the PS’ official immigration policy?

In the 1990s, when the number of migrants and refugees started to grow in Finland, tabloids like Ilta-Sanomat spread racism and reinforce hostile attitudes among some white Finns of migrants and minorities with the help of poor, sloppy and racist journalism.

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May 15

Brittilehti: Kreikka, varo “karhumaista” Timo Soinia! (Ilta-Sanomat)

What’s wrong with this story? The Finnish media has been criticized in the past for being toothless when it comes to covering immigration and cultural diversity news. We’ve all seen too many examples of how the national media parrots what politicians want them to publish. This latter situation is partly guaranteed by the fact that politicians require Finnish journalists to show them what is going to be published for example in an interview. Tabloid Ilta-Sanomat like Iltalehti are sad examples of shoddy and racist journalism. They have done a lot to spread urban tales and suspicion about migrants and minorities. If you disagree, check out what they wrote about the first Somali refugees that came to the country in the early 1990s. In the story below, which cites a Daily Telegraph story about Perussuomalaiset* leader Timo Soini, defends the leader of the populist party when the London daily claims that he is “fiercely anti-immigration.” For some strange reason the reporter has to point out that Soini denies that he is “fiercely anti-immigration.” Is it the job of the journalist to tell us his opinion about Soini or is it the reader who decides if the PS leader is or isn’t fiercely anti-immigration?

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May 5

N-junan vie suoraan Suomen tulevaisuuteen (Helsingin Sanomat)

What’s wrong with this story? While I respect the reporters dread of cultural diversity I don’t like his coded headline, which makes an inference to the n-word. The reporter, Mika Malmberg, shows us the artistic side of his abhorrence to the ever changing ethnic face of Helsinki. Since the N-line train passes by the northern Helsinki neighborhood of Tapanila, where a gang rape occurred in March, he dwells on it and gives a furious blow to the Somali community of Finland by citing an incomplete study that anti-immigrant politicians and parties like the Perussuomalaiset use to victimize all Somalis and visible migrants. Life must be tough for Malmberg for seeing so much ethnic, cultural and linguistic diversity in one visual gulp on a commuter train. If I could I’d write a similar story about being on the V-line train (the v would be code for v***u in Finnish) and how it feels to be on a train with only white Finns. Some of them would be drunk while others would be staring silently into the abyss.

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Apr. 22

Tapanilan joukkoraiskauksesta syytteet viidelle (YLE)

What’s wrong with this story? The news story by YLE on sentencing five youths with so-called “foreign backgrounds” is an example of how the media and society continue to perceive non-white Finns, especially those that are suspected of a crime, as eternal outsiders. The police may use an ethnic description of a suspect that is at large but to continue to label such a person while in custody is odd. Certainly there’s nothing odd about this if your aim is to stress “us” at the cost of “them.”  Migrant Tales got in touch with the policeman in charge of the Tapanila gang rape investigation. He admitted that some of the suspects were born and raised in this country and were Finnish citizens but didn’t consider these facts to be important in the investigation. Not an important fact? With one word, person with foreign background, the police labelled all migrants and gave a rude message to Finns that aren’t white: You are an outsider.

Tabloid Ilatlehti used the same term to describe a group of 8 youths aged 15-17 years who were sentenced for street robbing and attacking victims in Eastern Helsinki. The tabloid mentioned that “most of those sentenced” had “foreign backgrounds.”

Here’s the question: Why are they labeled “with foreign background if they aren’t at large and in custody?” How many generations must a person live in this country to not be labeled as a person with a foreign background? If the attackers were of German or Swedish background would they be called “foreign?” The term, like in Sweden, is code to label people who are, or whose parents were, from outside the EU.

This is not only poor journalism at its worst that shows how prejudices about non-white Finns are maintained, it shows as well how ethnically one-sided the Finnish media continues to be.

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Apr. 22

YLE poll: Majority of Finns oppose work-based immigration (YLE)

What’s wrong with this story? In 2010 Migrant Tales asked when these type of what-Finns-think-off-immigrant polls would stop? And they have stopped but Wednesday YLE  published an online random and unrepresentative poll that showed three quarters were against work-based immigration to Finland. YLE committed two big no-nos by carrying out and publishing the results of the poll: (1) asking a question that will give us an obvious answer and (2) using an unrepresentative poll. The question that the poll asked is as bad as “do you want more migrants to move to your country?” Few people would respond positively to such a question even if there were few immigrants living in their country. The same goes for immigrants coming to work here. The poll and publishing it showed poor judgement on behalf of YLE.

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Apr. 13

Muutos 2011 racist ad (Vantaan Sanomat)

What’s wrong with this ad? Coded racism in the media is common but being outright racist, like the what is written on Jari Leino’s Muutos 2011 ad is less common. Even if Vantaan Sanomat is a community paper, certainly it must abide to some standards. The ad states: Finland is for the Finns; Somalia is for the Somalis; advance vote Somalis back to their country. The editor of Vantaan Sanomat, A-P Pietilä, apologized for the ad but was his apology crocodile tears? Pietilä has a long track record stretching back to the 1990s of having strong anti-immigration opinions. Was publishing Leino’s ad a “mistake” or a lowly stunt to get public attention for the paper and of Pietilä’s anti-immigration views through a far-right Muutos 2011 candidate? All of these are valid questions that the media hasn’t even bothered to ask.

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This story was removed by Helsingin Sanomat the following day and the newspaper has apologized for publishing it.

Apr. 3

Miten kutsuisimme virolaisia? (Helsingin Sanomat)

What’s wrong with this story? This story could show, apart from poor and shoddy journalism, white Finnish privilege and how stereotypes are spread and reinforced. The country’s biggest daily, Helsingin Sanomat, asks its readers to vote for the best nickname for Estonians without bothering to ask Estonians what they want to be called. In my opinion some offensive names on the list include virukset (virus = a person who is half Estonian and half Russian), kroonit (they’re so much after money) and retiisit (during Soviet occupation Estonians were red from the outside but white inside). Ever wonder which groups spread stereotypes of migrants and minorities? The Helsingin Sanomat story below is a worst example of how this is done. Their sense of humor may not be shared by Estonians and maybe considered outright offensive to some of them.

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Apr. 2

Finns Party MP would base immigration restrictions on nationality (YLE in English)

Why this story misses the point. A story published Thursday by YLE and later translated into English by the same news service is a perfect example of how the national media is taken for a ride by anti-immigration groups like the Perussuomalaiset (PS)*. True, immigrant can be defined as someone who has lived more than a year in the country irrespective if the person sought asylum, but since this is not explained in the story a distorted picture emerges. Even so, the Suomen Perusta report doesn’t even mention the UN definition but uses its own.

In my opinion there are three important points lacking in the story:

  • Somalians and Germans are grouped as “immigrants” in the PS thinktank report. YLE forgets to mention that the Somalians that came to Finland as refugees. The PS may be inclined to use the term “immigrants” since it believes that refugees from Somalia may not be “real” refugees but so-called “welfare shoppers.” The 75-page report by Suomen Perusta only uses the term “refugee” once;
  • They mention that the idea of restricting immigration from certain regions is the suggestion of one PS MP and not that of the whole party. PS MP Juho Eerola, who made the suggestion, is third vice president of the anti-immigration party. Certainly he must represent the whole party;
  • YLE uses a black hand to drive home the stereotype that “bad” immigration is black. Very commonly the Finnish media uses pictures of Muslim women or of black people to go with a news story about immigration.

The story should have made the distinction between migrant and refugee or at least the reporter should have explained why the term immigrant was used for a group like the Somalians who have 99.9% come to Finland as asylum seekers. By not clearing us this point we get a distorted picture and paint immigrants that come to Finland with a single brush. When they speak of restricting immigrant policy are they really talking about refugee policy? Did anyone ask Eerola if its his or the party’s opinion that Finland should start to restrict certain groups from coming to Finland? Use a white hand in the picture instead of a black one. This latest story is a good example of how YLE reporters should be careful about becoming rubber stamps of anti-immigration parities like the PS.

One journalist that I approached claimed that Somalians in Finland are immigrants. Are they? Yes, by UN definition if they have lived more than a year. But that definition is deceptive because it erases the reasons why people from war-torn countries like Somalia come to Finland.

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Mar. 30

Ilkan kysely: Lukijoista suurin osa ei halua pakolaisperhettä naapuriinsa  (Ilkka)

What’s wrong with this story and how does it reinforce prejudices about refugees? Ilkka of Seinäjoki, probably the most anti-immigration daily in Finland, published the results of a survey it conducted with its readers and asked what they think about refugees. Eighty percent that responded said that South Ostrobothnia shouldn’t accept anymore refugees while 60% said they would not want to have a refugee as their neighbor. Should we be surprised by the results of the survey? Not really due to the xenophobic climate in Finland. So why did Ilkka carry out this survey in the first place if it knew what the answer would be? Hiding one’s shame or that intolerance works in many strange ways? Was one reason Seinäjoki’s decision not to accept any refugees this year? Either way shameful and opinionated journalism at its worst.  

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Mar. 19

Enbuske & Linnanahde: Miksi “kansalaisryhmä x” raiskaa?  (MTV3)

What’s wrong with this ad promoting a TV talk show? Racism in Finnish journalism is more common than one thinks. One of the problems is that the so-called migrant narrative is dominated and played out by white Finns who feel self-righteous are blinded by their own prejudices and political correctness. Their intolerance could be pictured as a jack-in-the-box that pops up when the lid is open and exposes an ogre. Imagine a popular talk show watched by Finns that asks why a certain national group rapes? What Enbuske & Linnanahde forget to mention is that white Finns commit the most rapes in this country so we could perfectly well ask the same questions of white Finns. Enbuske & Linnanahde have always had issues with their prejudices. This ad below, which was later changed, exposes it perfectly.

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Mar. 17

Krp kiinnostui: Tapanilan raiskaus raivostutti nettikirjoittajat (Ilta-Sanomat

A good example of disingenuous journalism.  If we were to write about how racism spread and got a foothold in Finland in the early 1990s, Ilta-Sanomat would shine above the rest. Its billboards of the 1990s are clear examples of how it fueled racism and bigotry in this country when Somalis started to come to Finland. The story below is another example of their lowly style of journalism. Imagine, the tabloid asks how the rape case in the northern Helsinki neighborhood of Tapanila has infuriated people on the web so much that even the National Bureau of Investigation (Krp) is interested. What Ilta-Sanomat does here is add more fuel to the flames of intolerance by asking such a question and thus giving power and recognition to racists on the web.  A underhanded disingenious trick by a tabloid that is no stranger to racist reporting.

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Mar. 13

Raiskauksia paljastuu aiempaa enemmän – joka kolmas tuomittu ulkomaalaistaustainen or Raiskauksia paljastuu aiempaa enemmän – Tapanilan joukkoraiskauksesta epäilyt vangittiin  (Helsingin Sanomat)

What’s wrong with the below? It’s been a terrible week for Finland’s leading daily Helsingin Sanomat. In reporting a rape case that took place Monday night in northern Helsinki, the police made a mistake by revealing in a statement that the five teenagers were of “immigrant backgrounds.” It is considered unethical to reveal the person’s ethnic identity if the suspect is no longer at large. Two days later Helsingin Sanomat fumbles the ball again with a story about how more rape cases are being brought to justice than before. In the original headline, they state that “every third person sentenced [for rape] is a person with immigrant background.”  That problematic headline, which victimizes all migrants, was changed. It now reads: “The suspects of the Tapanila [rape case] will be held in custody.” What do these two stories reveal about the Finnish police and Helsingin Sanomat? Biased and sloppy journalism that is more interested in reinforcing urban tales than challenging them.

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Mar. 11

Tapanilan raiskaus ja HS:n uutisointi – Mitä kertoa, kun epäillyt ovat jo kiini? (Helsingin Sanomat)

Some bad and some good journalism. The police said in a statement that a group of 15-18-year-olds who raped a woman on Monday in Tapanila, a neighborhood of northern Helsinki, had “immigrant backgrounds.” A few minutes later after publishing the story Helsingin Sanomat, which relied on the police statement, took out the word since the suspects were in police custody. Stating a person’s ethnic identity can be helpful if the suspect is still at large. This may be problematic, however, since a person with “immigrant background” encompasses a very large group. In practice it is anyone who isn’t a white Finn. In the present xenophobic climate and with parliamentary elections only a month away, some anti-immigration sites are pointing the accusing finger at Helsingin Sanomat for removing the word “immigrant background” in the story as a clear example that Finland’s largest daily favors “foreigners.” A question that should always be asked when mentioning a suspect’s ethnic background is if the person is under custody or is still at large?

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Mar. 10

PAM: Ulkomaalaisomisteisiin ravintoloihin tarvitaan lisää valvonta (YLE)

What’s wrong with this story? Right from the onset of the news story, in the headline, there is a serious problem: In one shot PAM, a trade union that represents workers in the private service sector, claims that the authorities should have more resources to monitor restaurants owned by foreigners since they exploit their employees. While this may be true in some cases, the article generalizes and labels all restaurants run by foreigners. While there are foreign employers that abuse their employees, the same practice happens at restaurants owned by Finns as well. Singling out only foreign restaurants, and suggesting that they exploit employees, labels and stigmatizes all foreign restaurants.  This is poor and careless journalism at its worst that reinforces prejudices against foreigners instead of  bringing solutions to the table. 

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Mar. 6

Pressiklubi (Yle)

What’s wrong with this statement? Yle veteran journalist Pekka Ervasti was asked about racism in the Perussuomalaiset party. He said that he “wasn’t qualified” to know if this was or not the case. This statement was a cop- out if there ever was one and how Finnish journalism deals with a sticky matter like racism. Just wash your hands and don’t deal with it. As a journalist, Pekka Ervasti, it’s your job to get up to speed and know what racism is.

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Mar. 6

Olli Immonen rajoittaisi somaleiden maahanmuuttoa (Verkkouutiset)

What’s wrong with this story? We all know what Perussuomalaiset (PS)* MP Olli Immonen’s xenophobic views are about migration and especially about Muslims and Somalis. No news here. It wasn’t too long ago when Finnish officials avoided using the term “refugee” for Soviet citizens that were fleeing the USSR since the term wasn’t liked by its giant eastern neighbor. Similarly, there were so few migrants in Finland in the 1980s that such people weren’t even called migrants but aliens. In the Verkkouutiset story the term asylum is only mentioned once even if Somalis are considered to be refugees fleeing a civil war that has raged the country since the early 1990s. Not only does Verkkouutiset accept Immonen’s terminology but sides with it by default. The Verkkouutiset story is a good example of how the Finnish media plays down the humanitarian suffering of groups like Somalis by simply regurgitating an Islamophobes claims that “migration [not refugees fleeing war] from that country” must be halted.

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Mar. 6

Yli puolet nuorista on kokenut syrjintää – ongelmia eniten kouluissa (Helsingin Sanomat)

What’s the missing story in this story? Migrant Tales has written before about how migrants, or children of migrant parents, are together with sexual minorities victims of bullying. The findings of the survey, which is monitored every year,  doesn’t reveal anything new except that the problem persists. The survey showed that 85% of those aged 15-28 years, and especially migrants and sexual minorities, suffered greater bullying than white Finns. But there is an important question missing in the story: What steps are being taken to challenge this type of anti-social behavior? What do the politicians and policy-makers think about the findings? What do they plan to do about the problem?

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Mar. 1

Surmatut ja epäilty ovat ulkomaalaistaustaisia, mutta asuneet Suomessa pitkään  (MTV3)

What’s wrong with the headline? Three migrants were killed by another foreigner on Sunday in the small town of Laukaa, located near Jyväskylä. While the victims and the suspect are non-Finns, MTV3 makes a distinction in the headline about this fact. It states that those killed and the suspect are foreigners “but have lived a long time in Finland.” While the headline was brought to my attention by a post on Facebook, there is an obvious question: What is the difference if the “foreigners” had lived a long time or not in Finland? Are they suggesting that foreigners that have lived a shorter time in Finland are more prone to be killed or be suspected killers? Makes you wonder.

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Feb. 27

Rasistinen vai ei? Oikeusoppineet arvioivat perussuomalaisten maahanmuutto-ohjelma (YLE Kioski)

What’s wrong with this story? A story published by YLE Kioski asked a number of law professors if the Perussuomalaiset (PS) party program on immigration is racist. While the answers from five professors affirmed that the PS program was racist and/or unconstitutional, not a single non-Finnish professor was approached by YLE Kioski. One professor that could have given “a migrant view” is Jeremy Gould of Jyväskylä University. The fact that representatives of the majority culture, in this case white Finnish professors, are giving their expert opinions about what impacts migrants and minorities is nothing new. Too often migrants and minorities aren’t approached by the media in such cases. One of the journalists who did the story is Sean Ricks. The story mistakenly states that Veronika Honkasalo is an MP for the Left Alliance. She is a Helsinki city councilwoman who is running for parliament.

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Feb. 26

Koraaninluku radiossa nosti raivon – “Sotkee nuorten päät ja vihasoppa on valmis” (Helsingin Uutiset)

What’s wrong with this story? Helsingin Uutiset is a community paper that is distributed for free to Helsinki residents. One of the unfortunate qualities of Helsingin Uutiset is that it is known for its anti-immigration stand. The story below about the Finnish Broadcasting Company (YLE) beginning to read the Koran on air has raised a lot of opposition, which Helsingin Uutiset writes a story about based on anonymous comments on its website, some of which are hostile and Islamophobic. One comment claims that the program “mixes young people’s head and ensures a hate brew to be concocted” while another one says it promotes terrorism. The paper asks its readers to vote if they think it is a good idea to read the Koran on radio. About 80% say it’s a bad idea. Since when were anonymous comments credible? Poor opinionated journalism at its worst.  

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Feb. 26

Rasismi motiivina somalitaksikuskin pahoinpitelyyn Lieksassa? (Karjalainen)

Why such an odd question in the headline? Migrant Tales has published, like the national media, a number of stories on racism in Lieksa, a town located in Eastern Finland. Karjalainen, a Joensuu daily, has played an important role in tackling racism in this part of the country. The headline of the story, Racism could be a motive in the attack against a Somali taxi driver of Lieksa, is an odd headline. The story states that not only was the taxi driver attacked by the white Finnish male client, but was that the driver was also a victim of his racist language and harassment. While everyone is innocent before proven guilty, why are we questioning if this was a hate crime? Are we playing down what happened by asking if it was a hate crime? The headline should have been bolder like, White Finn attacks and hurls racist language against Somali taxi driver.

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Feb. 19

Soini: Perussuomalaiset ei “flirttaile” rasismin kanssa (Helsingin Sanomat)

What’s wrong with this news story? The Finnish media has asked over and over again Perussuomalaiset (PS)[1] chairman Timo Soini what he thinks about racism. The PS chairman always gives the same answer, claiming with a poker face that his party doesn’t even flirt with racism.[1] What’s wrong with this question and the story? Everyone in the story, the reporter and Soini, are white Finns asking about racism. Why doesn’t Helsingin Sanomat ask a minority living in Finland or a member of the Romany minority if they think the PS is a racist party? If they approached Migrant Tales with such a question our answer would be clear: The PS is a populist anti-immigration, homophobic and especially anti-Islam party that is against cultural diversity. Soini is the last person that will tell you that his party is racist. Therefore, the reporter should find more ingenious ways of showing how the PS has issues with racism.

[1] The English name of the Perussuomalaiset (PS) is officially the Finns Party. The names adopted by the PS, like True Finns or Finns Party, promote in our opinion nativist nationalism and xenophobia. We therefore prefer to use the Finnish name of the party on our postings. 

[2] Soini claimed in 2009 that he’d sack any PS member if they got sentenced for inciting ethnic hatred. PS MEP Jussi Halla-aho did but nothing happened to him. Soini defended his decision not to sack Halla-aho on BBC’s HARDTalk and on top of that gave him the job of drafting the PS’s party program on immigration. 

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Feb. 17

Suomi pelkää terroristeja vähemmän kuin naapurimaat (Helsingin Sanomat)

What’s wrong with this news story? Today’s front page of Helsingin Sanomat’s online edition has a picture of three black young men with the following headline: Finland fears terrorists less than its neighboring countries. For those interested in semiotics, the study of meaning-making, the philosophical theory of signs and symbols, today’s front page of Finland’s leading daily is a case in point in how the media reinforces stereotypes and prejudices. Did Helsingin Sanomat alert those in the picture that their faces could be connected to terrorism and that the story reinforces suspicion that black people could be involved in terrorism? Is Helsingin Sanomat suggesting that the next terrorist act will be carried out by black and Muslims? Had they forgotten that the biggest terrorist act in the Nordic region was committed in 2011 by a white Norwegian anti-jihadist crusader called Anders Breivik? Why didn’t the paper put a picture of Breivik? A lot of question but few answers from the national media.

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Feb. 14

“Suomessa on jatkuva sadekausi” (Ilkka)

What’s wrong with this news story? If one follows news about immigrants and cultural diversity in Finland on Uutiskynnys.fi, one daily will stand out from the rest: Ilkka. The newspaper from Seinäjoki appears to specialize in writing about the Perussuomalaiset’s (PS)* anti-immigration rhetoric without asking the all-important question: What are your sources and can you back up your claims? Their latest story about PS MEP Jussi Halla-aho is a perfect example. “It’s the truth that where there’s a problem nearly always there are Muslims. Their culture and religion hinders their integration into Western culture,” he was quoted as saying. Ilkka permits a politician, who was sentenced for ethnic agitation, to make such fiery statements without even questioning them. Ilkka is shoddy and opinionated journalism at its worst in Finland.

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Jan. 24

Suomi ei vedä maahanmuuttajia (Helsingin Sanomat)

What was left out? Today’s editorial on Helsingin Sanomat headlined, “Finland doesn’t attract migrants,” defends the country’s tightening of family reunification laws but surprisingly agrees with the anti-immigration populists, the Perussuomalaiset (PS),* that Finland should invest more in integration and offer more Finnish-language courses to newcomers. Is this only mentioned by the PS? Why does Helsingin Sanomat single out the PS in this respect? Do they want to make up with the anti-immigration party? Even if learning the local language is important, it isn’t a passport to equal membership in society. In Spain, where there are many Latin Americans, racism and social exclusion are common despite the fact that such migrants speak Spanish as their native tongue. Integration is a two-way process (not mentioned in the editorial) and certainly one reason why so few skilled migrants come to Finland is due to a number of factors like how do Finns relate to cultural diversity and Otherness? The cartoon depicts the prevailing attitude in all political parties: See no migrant, hear no migrant, speak no migrant.

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Jan. 19

Perussuomalaisten Martti Mölsä: Maahanmuutosta ja kehitysavusta voi leikata kaksi miljardia (YLE)

What was left out? YLE journalist Petra Ketunen was not on the ball when she asked Perussuomalaiset (PS)* MP Martti Mölsä about immigration, which the PS MP claimed cost taxpayers 1.5 billion euros. He said that the Finnish economy would grow if the country cut immigration and development aid (1.2 billion euros). These figures cited by Mölsä are malarkey and pulled out of the hat in October by Matti Putkonen of the PS and party secretary Riikka Slunga-Poutsalo. When an Iltalehti reporter approached these two party members about these figures, it became clear that the source of the above-mentioned sums were none other than Putkonen. The Finnish Immigration Service said that according to its calculations the cost of immigration was 210 million euros. If these cost of immigration figures stated by Mölsä were wrong to begin with why didn’t the journalist question them?

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Jan. 19

Koraaninpolttajapastori ei pelkää islamisteja (Ilkka)

What was left out? Why would a newspaper in the Finnish western city of Seinäjoki be interested in the Islamphobic ideas and actions of Terry Jones? The headline, “pastor who has burned Korans isn’t scared of Islamists,” raises a lot of questions. Why was this story in particular published and what is its real message after the Charlie Hebdo attack? Is the aim to reinforce our fears and suspicions of Muslims? Why doesn’t Ilkka mention in the story that this person is off his rocker? Why doesn’t the daily inform us that he was listed in 2011 by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights organization, as one of 10 people in the United States’ “Anti-Muslim Inner Circle.” Jones is a good example of Islamophobic extremism in the United States. All we are told by Ilkka is that his life is in danger because he burns Korans.

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Jan. 18

Äärinationalistit ja islamistit ovat saman hirviön kaksi tyhmää päätä (Helsingin Sanomat)

What was left out? Reading stories and opinion pieces about Islam are like waiting for a child to be born. You read and wait until you get to the punchline, where the author’s opinion is exposed. Too many opinion pieces written by the Western media are like birth: at the end of labor there’s a baby, nothing more, nothing less. Saska Saarikoski tries to tell us with a lot of historical anecdotes about Islam and how ultra nationalists and Islamists are birds of the same feather. Here’s Saarikoski’s punchline:  “Instead of asking whether Islam is good or bad, you might want to ask how Islam adapts to the modern world, a place where there aren’t absolute truths…are they capable of living in the modern world governed by secular [and Western] democratic rules?” Has Saarikoski heard of Bosnia, Albania, Turkey, Bangladesh, Malaysia and Indonesia. If he had, he would have never tried to paint 1.5 billion Muslims with a single brush.

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Jan. 15

Teuvo Hakkarainen kirvessurmista: “Onko tämä sitä demarien työperäistä maahanmuuttoa?” (Keskisuomalainen)

What was left out? There seems to be a pattern how the Finnish media publish stories about migrants. This one written by Jyväskylä-based daily Keskisuomalainen reporter Roope Visuri only offers the reaction of Perussuomalaiset (PS)* MP Teuvo Hakkarainen concerning the death of a migrant by the police who killed two people with an axe. Keskisuomalainen publishes Hakkarainen’s comments because he’s from Viitasaari, a town located near Jyväskylä. Oulu, where the crime took place, is 340 km from Jyväskylä. Why didn’t Visuri get in touch with other MPs from the region? Why did he want to interview Hakkarainen? Is it because he’d get a juicy racist comment to publish? Said Hakkarainen: “In connection to the axe killings of Oulu, is this what Antti Rinne and other Social Democrats mean by [bringing] skilled migrant labor [to the country], where ethnic Finns are killed and in their places are brought people who live off welfare and employ the public sector like the police, among others?”

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Jan. 14

PS:n Packalén Guzeninalle: Oletko enemmän venäläinen vai suomalainen? (MTV3)

What was left out? This story that appeared on MTV3 is a good example of how the media continues to classify even Finns as “us” and “them.” Perussuomalaiset MP Tom Packalén, who spread fear in October by claiming that “racist” mobs comprising of “migrant youths” were terrorizing white Finns in East Helsinki, is trying to get reelected on an anti-immigration ticket. This interview on MTV3, where he questions Social Democrat MP Maria Guzenina, who has a Russian mother, if she would root for Finland or Russia in a football match, is a good example of the simplistic and racist worldview of some politicians like Packalén. Packalén asks Guzenina in the headline: “Are you more Russian than Finn?” The PS MP didn’t quite ask the question so directly but the journalist interpreted that way. When will editorials in the Finnish media start to speak of cultural diversity as something normal in this country and not as if it were an illness, like the MTV3 story suggests. In our book, Packalén’s statement is an insult to a woman and a Finn with Russian background that should be condemned.

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Jan. 9

Helsinkiläismoskeijassa ei uskota terroriin Suomessa – “En usko, että Suomessa on sellaisia ihmisiä” (Helsingin Sanomat)

What was left out? This article by Kalle Koponen reveals how Finland’s largest daily labels whole groups. How could a moderate imam like Mohamad Amas Hajar know if Finland could suffer a terrorist attack? Does Finland’s Securty Intelligence Service (Supo) know? It’s clear that these types of stories do nothing to challenge stereotypes and bigoted opinions about Muslims by white Europeans. My advice? Don’t paint a whole group with a single brush. Why didn’t journalists from Norway’s leading dailies interview members of the protestant church and ask if they thought another Anders Breivik-style attack was possible?

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Jan. 18

JSN:n Uimonen: Terrori-iskut kertovat demokratiakäsitysten yhteentörmäyksestä (Helsingin Uutiset)

What was left out? Shortly after the Charlie Hebdo attack Risto Uimonen, the chair of  the Council of Mass Media in Finland, stated that what happened in Paris was a clash of civilizations between the West and Islamic world, according to Yle in English. “This is a strong attack on democracy and freedom of speech,” said Uimonen. “It pits two understandings of democracy, western and Islamic, against each other–and they can’t be reconciled.” Just like Saska Saarikoski’s column on the far right and Islamists, Uimonen paints Islam and Muslims with a single brush. There is no difference – in Uimonen’s book – between Saudi Arabia and Malaysia. Painting such a negative and bellicose picture of Islam does not help promote press freedom in Islamic countries.

Helsingin Uutiset is a community paper.

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Jan. 8

Halla-aho: Islamilaisen maailman enemmistöllä sama maailmankuva kuin Pariisin murhaajilla (Ilkka)

What was left out? Juha Vainio and Lauri Nurmi forgot one of the most important task of the journalist: Not to be a rubber stamp. There is a company called PR Newswire that sends company statements to the media. They don’t edit them or bother to research if they are true. This is exactly what Vainio and Nurmi did when they reprinted in an article the written comments of Perussuomalaiset (PS) MEP Jussi Halla-aho, who has been convicted for ethnic agitation.  In the article, Halla-aho paints with a single brush all Muslims by claiming that the majority of them have the same world view as those that carried out the Charlie Hebdo attack. The journalists don’t even bother to ask expert sources what’s wrong with Halla-aho’s claim. In a nutshell shoddy and lazy journalism at its worst by Ilkka. This article is a good example of how the Finnish media continues to give racists inflated respectability and importance.

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Jan. 7

 “Maahanmuuttokriittisyys näkyvämmäksi” – Halla-ahon linja saa puolueessa kannatusta (Helsingin Sanomat)

What was left out? This story written by Olli Pohjanpalo shows why even Finland’s largest daily forgets to use its most powerful weapon: a critical question. The story permitted PS MEP Jussi Halla-aho, party chairman Soini and MP Juho Eerola to claim that migration was costly and a social problem. Pohanpalo didn’t even care to ask what the anti-immigration politicians’ sources were and thus permitted an urban tale to see another day. The urban tale spread by Helsingin Sanomat is one of the oldest used in Finland by the same politicians over and over again: migrants are useless because they don’t do anything productive, they don’t pay taxes and only create social headaches and problems for society.

The Finnish name for the Finns Party is the Perussuomalaiset (PS). The English names of the party adopted by the PS, like True Finns or Finns Party, promote in our opinion nativist nationalism and xenophobia. We therefore prefer to use the Finnish name of the party on our postings. 

 

  1. Klay_immigrant

    I wonder if you are celebrating what happened in Paris today thinking the dead and the magazine deserved what happened and that freedom of speech cannot be taken advantage of? But I’m sure you won’t write one sentence about the events of today in Paris.

    • Enrique Tessieri

      I think your comment is totally out of line and will publish it so others can see where your thoughts lie on this tragic day. Sad.

  2. Yossie

    “It’s one of the oldest tricks in the books used against journalists: 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.”

    This sounds exactly like the story in Esilstuna:

    Someone makes an outrageous claim to a police, who doesn’t even bother to question its veracity. Eventually the police 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.

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