By Enrique Tessieri
You know that there is something wrong whenever a group, never mind a major political party like the Perussuomalaiset (PS), start accusing the media for their problems. This is exactly what Matti Putkonen and MP Jussi Halla-aho did Wednesday on YLE, when they blamed the media for treating the PS unfairly compared with other parties.
This view was contested by Risto Uimonen, chairman of the Council for Mass Media in Finland and a guest on the show. He said that since the election, when the PS became the third-largest party in Finland, it’s only natural that it has come under greater media scrutiny.
Even though Putkonen, who was convicted of rape in the early 1990s, vows to restore the PS’ good name in the media, it’s pretty clear that any such attempt will end up in failure before it leaves the drawing board.
If we look closely at what Putkonen and Halla-aho said, it’s clear that the party is pretty much in the dark about the watchdog role of the media. Statements by them and PS MP James Hirvisaari, who has called the media “bloodthirsty hyenas,” should instead sound alarm bells.
I am certain that if these PS politicians had their way, they’d be the first to curtail press freedom in order that the media would write what they wanted. Putkonen said in a letter to journalists that the media should “serve the fatherland when writing the news.”
Does “serving the fatherland” mean distorting the news and self-censorship when reporting on the PS?
If the PS were fair and had a drop of self-criticism, they’d understand that much of the so-called negative coverage of the party is self-inflicted. Have they forgotten PS MP Teuvo Hakkarainen, sacked PS councilman Tommi Rautio, Ulla Pyysalo, Helena Eronen, Freddy Van Wonterghem and a long, long list of others?
Sad but true. Every month, sometimes every week, we are questionably entertained by some scandal that hits the front pages of the tabloids.
The ignorance and contempt that some PS members have for the media and for freedom of expression in Finland can be seen as well how the party addresses other issue like immigration and cultural diversity.
In their amateurishness and populist anti-democratic wishful thinking, they seek to rewrite history and move the goalposts of society to fit their intolerant world.
The media is the best insurance that such a thing will never happen.