What the Finnish media leaves out in a story is an editorial line just like silence is a political decision

by , under Enrique Tessieri

Silence is a political decision. 

In journalism it works in the following manner: Silence is what you don’t report and intentionally leave out in the story. That is a policy decision, or an editorial line. 

As more asylum seekers come to Finland I try to remember what the media reported about the arrival of Somalis to Finland in the early 1990s. The reporting was disgraceful, unprofessional and outright racist.

No doubt about that.

The first time I ever got death threats in my life was in Finland, when I wrote about for Apu magazine a big story on a refugee center in Mikkeli.

When I reported this matter to the police in Helsinki, the matter that surprised me was how he played down what happened. He just wasn’t interested, He didn’t take what happened to me seriously.

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This 1994 billboard by tabloid Ilta-Sanomat reads: “Somalis got asylum by swindled the authorities.” Source: Migration Institute.

While the national media doesn’t show its racism like the billboard above, it’s reporting is below standard it is still “white” and opinionated. Too often it is a mouthpiece for racist comments by politicians and rarely does it ever challenge them.  

The most recent example of the above was YLE’s 8:30pm news Saturday. For some odd reason YLE reports the news about the demonstrations for and against asylum seekers as two extremes.

If we put that type of reporting into context and applied it to Britain you’d probably see the former Islamophobic English Defense League at one end and anarchists at the other.

In Finland the media incorrectly reports that those who are in favor or against asylum seekers are two extremes.

They’re not.

It’s as if the media wants us to have a civilized debate with extremist who wouldn’t think twice about taking away our rights with the help of unconstitutional laws that violate human rights.

The silence of the politicians and its faithful accomplice, the media, are the reason why mainstream Finns have been obliged to demonstrate in greater numbers against groups comprising of far right hotheads, white trash, members and sympathizers of the anti-immigration Perussuomalaiset (PS)* party.

Am I the “opposite extreme” of the eerie Ku Klux Klan impersonator that popped up in Lahti over a week ago? Why hasn’t any newspaper asked the police why they allowed this person to wear a mask at a demonstration, which is illegal?

Am I the other extreme to PS city of Kemi councilman Harri Tauriainen, who used to have “White Power” and other racist pictures on his Facebook page? He recently took part and spoke at a recent demonstration  in Tornio demanding the closure of the border with Sweden.

I don’t consider myself to be the other “extreme” to people like Taurianen of the likes of him but a person defending our Constitution and Nordic values of social equality for all irrespective of one’s cultural and ethnic background. Why do some media pit us as the other “extreme” to hotheads like Taurianen, neo-Nazis, white trash and the PS? The only answer I have is sloppy, opinionated journalism with reporters who are closest racists.

Who is Tauriainen? He represents what writer Jari Tervo called white trash. The quote by Taurianen  shouldn’t leave anyone in doubt about his racism. This is what he was quoted as saying in the media:

“…it’s odd that we can’t put in line in Finland this colored human trash. Just put a stamp on their ass and deport them for good from Finland.”

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This was PS councilman Harri Tauriainen’s Facebook picture page after the municipal elections of 2012 and today.

I almost fell of my seat Thursday when I watched YLE’s 8:30pm news about a demonstration in Tampere that turned violent. Who did YLE interview? Jari Leino of  the far right Muutos 2011 party.

Who was Muutos 2011’s only MP? Right. Former PS MP James Hirvisaari, who got sacked after taking a picture and posting on social media his friend’s Nazi salute in parliament.

Hirvisaari has other dubious “honors” like being sentenced for ethnic agitation.

The media, like our government and political institutions, are suffering from a serious credibility crisis today. That crisis is in part their own racism and denial that such a social ill exists.

PS MP Teuvo Hakkarainen is another politician who shows how far we have stooped in Finland. In an interview with Oulu-based Kaleva, where he called asylum seekers economic migrants, or “better-life surfers,” in the same demeaning language as PS party secretary Riikka Slunga-Poutsalo. The lawmaker said that that the PS cannot realize its policies because of international refugee agreements and the Constitution.

Yes you heard right: we must shelve our international agreements and change our Constitution, according to Hakkarainen. What is Kaleva’s reaction to what the PS MP said?

Here is another big problem of the media and how it is a mouthpiece for racist statements. They simply quote them without questioning them in the story or later in an editorial.

Some pessimists claim that our stint with openness and global integration happened between 1991 with the demise of the former Soviet Union to the rise of the PS in 2011.

What Finland needs today is leadership. By leadership I don’t mean making empty phrases like “I don’t tolerate racism,” but actually backing them with action.

How can the government be “against racism” if they are in bed with a party in government that bases its popularity on populism and racism?

The fact that the government will not take concrete and effective steps to make Finland a more inclusive country, reveals that the struggle for social equality and respect of migrants and minorities in Finland will be a long one.

The decision by the majority of politicians and the media to not report more fairly on our ever-growing culturally and ethnically diverse society is a political decision and editorial line.

While the media doesn’t show its racism and ignorance so openly as in the the 1990s, when Somalis came to Finland, it is showing it in different ways like claiming that those for or against asylum seekers are two extremes.

In plain English it means getting some teeth in order to challenge those dangers that are a menace to our society. One of them is our indifference, racism and denial that such problems exist.

Defending the Constitution and our Nordic values has nothing to do with being at one extreme.

Those that want to trash such values are the extremists, the menace facing this country, now.

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. Migrant Tales

    Wow Yossie, do you see things that simplistically. Everything that I raise is against fascism and racism. Well, have you lived in a fascist dictatorship? Have you been an immigrant? Have you ever been Other? I guess not…That’s why you see me and what I write in such simple terms.

  2. Yossie

    Have I lived in a fascist dictatorship? No, but I suppose you have since your tool bag seems to come from there: Silence the opposition and media should only spread your own opinions. That is what you want.

    “Everything that I raise is against fascism and racism.”

    This really shows your extremism. For you anything that means limiting the number of people coming here is fascism and racism.

    “Have you been an immigrant? Have you ever been Other?”

    Suppose it depends what you count as an immigrant. I have lived in another country yes, for a fixed amount of time. Not for years though. Yes I was “other” if you mean belonging to different ethnic group than the local population.

    • Migrant Tales

      Having lived under a dictatorship, having worked as a foreign correspondent in many countries for 25 years and having a background in sociology and anthropology have taught me a thing or two about racism, fascism and extremism.

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