By Enrique Tessieri
The Helena Eronen scandal exposes an important watershed in Finland. It is a similar turning point as we saw on July 22 with the mass killings in Norway by Anders Breivik and in February, when Tommi Rautio suggested decoarating a white Finn for killing a Muslim in in cold blood in Oulu. The latest scandal reveals something equally important: accountability.
Back in the so-called good old days before last year’s election, politicians could say just about anything they pleased against immigrants and visible minorities without being held accountable. Times have changed since then and the Eronen scandal is a case in point.
What would happen if Perussuomalaiset (PS) MP Jussi Halla-aho published today a fraction of the quotes he made last decade? What would happen if Eronen published her infamous column on sleeve emblems in 2006 or 2008? Would she experience anything close to the criticism she is getting today? Probably not.
The magic word is accountability. Politicians, and especially those who gained prominence with their racist and Nazi-spirited language before last year’s election are now being held accountable for what they write by the media, some politicians and the general public. This is good news for Finland.
Accountability can do wonders. An association like Kansainvälinen Mikkeli sent an email to all those candidates before last year’s election who were strongly in favor of cutting back funds to immigrant associations and tightening immigration policy. You’d be surprised by how apologetic some were when they answered back.
It shows that if we ask questions and let politicians know that we are watching, listening and ready to act they will think twice what they say in public.
The media can play an important role. Leadership was shown by Turun Sanomat last week, when it picked up Eronen story on Uusi Suomi. The Turku-based daily merely did its job by asking her a question and, most importantly, held her accountable for what she wrote.
It’s still unclear whether Eronen will be able to keep her job as PS MP James Hirvisaari’s aide. In the meanwhile the scandal will continue to grow.
Turun Sanomat reports that apart from Sweden, Russia and former IVY countries, the column that suggested sleeve markings for different national groups has now spread to Holland, Iceland, Italy, Poland and Romania. To add more fuel to the fire, Johan Bäckman asked the police to investigate whether Eronen’s column is guilty of inciting ethnic hatred, according to Turun Sanomat.