YLE ensures that opinion pieces and news will be easily identifiable in the future

by , under Enrique

YLE emailed a Migrant Tales reader, who expressed concern Friday about an opinion piece written as news by Perussuomalaiset (PS) MP Olli Immonen. It was an odd coincidence that Immonen’s opinion piece was published in such a manner, considering that the PS MP is the new chairman of Suomen Sisu, a far right anti-immigration association

The email sent by Teijo Valtanen, the regional and  radio current affairs director, states: “Because in your opinion it wasn’t easily enough to distinguish that [what Immonen wrote] was an opinion piece, we will check these columns written [weekly on Fridays by Oulu region] MPs to ensure that they stand out sufficiently from news and are easily identifiable as opinion pieces.”

Thank you YLE. Even if Valtanen states that the broadcaster will take special care so that this mistake doesn’t happen again, this is exactly what should be always done. It’s the readers right to know if he or she is reading an opinion piece or a news story. Opinion is opinion and news stories are supposed to be fairly written without editorializing the topic.

In countries where the media is controlled by autocratic governments that have little respect for human rights, a strongman’s opinion can be presented as “news.”

Since the media plays an important role in our Western society to ensure Montesquieu’s checks and balances, the newsroom should be always off limits to representatives of the judiciary, legislative and executive.

Taking into account the attitude of some politicians especially from the PS, some of them would be more than happy to control what the media says.  This became self-evident right after the PS’ historic victory in 2011. Both MPs Jussi Halla-aho and James Hirvisaari, who have been sentenced for ethnic agitation, tried to tell the media how they should write about the populist party.

Hirvisaari, who wanted the media to stop nicknaming the PS persu, which could be seen coming from the word perse, meaning anus, claimed in 2011 that YLE should be made redundant because it brainwashes the public.

Why shouldn’t we be worried if an opinion piece written by a party member who loathes the media appears as news?

Our reaction to such a mistake clearly showed that that we want politicians, especially like Immonen, to stay out of the newsroom.

The media does its job when it places politicians under scrutiny, especially those who want to undermine its role and compromise its independence.

  1. Juudo

    hmm, Yle, who cares about this channel. They lose in sports, domestics and foreign news.

    We need more like a BBC.

    Happy Easter, I won’t be along for a while…probably anyway before midsummer

  2. Farang

    May I ask, what is the difference whether the article is written by Person A or Person B, taking in account that
    1) Person A is reporter and Person B is member of some group
    2) It is clearly mentioned who wrote it

    In any case it is clear from the article that the person writing it is giving just his own views on the matter, so there is absolutely no chance that anyone would consider it as ‘news’.

    • Mark

      I think Enrique addressed those points in this final summary. I suggest you read a little closer and give it some more thought before jumping to conclusions.

    • Mark

      This is news, Farang. Only the title is similar.

      This was a piece written by a journalist, who provides background and context to the story, though unlike better news outlets, she doesn’t provide any alternative views that would challenge Cameron’s, i.e. it is easy to get statements written by the political opposition. Even the London Mayor (Tory) criticised Cameron’s take on immigrants and economic benefit in recent days, which would have been a good counterpoint.

      But you cannot compare these two pieces only on the structure of the title. That would be, ugh, foolish!

  3. Mark

    Farang

    Non-UK nationals take up 2% of social housing in the UK. The vast majority of non-UK nationals feed into the economy by living in private-rented accommodation. The restrictions of 2-5 years just to get on a waiting list are very severe. Yet I have seen exactly this problem turn a community against immigrants, when newly renovated social housing that was supposed to benefit the local ‘poor’ was given to a large influx of newly arrived immigrants instead. As areas of the country are often forced to take a ‘quota’ of immigrants, it can happen that half of a housing estate can be ‘taken over’ by the foreigners in a very short space of time. That’s got to bring problems.

    The fact that the poor are directly competing with the poor and being made to ‘fight over the scraps’ of society’s benefit system is just an awful shame. It is Right Wing policies that allow that poverty to continue and also Right Wing politics that benefits most from the inter-poor fighting that can errupt.

    Figures I read today suggest that the number of people affected by the proposals will actually be less than 100,000 and that the policy was made more to address ‘public concern’ than pressing economic pressures arising from the issue. I think that says it all, really.

    • Enrique Tessieri

      These people at YLE really don’t get it, especially those that work at the Oulu office. First they picture “Immonen’s” story as “news” then it’s correctly placed under “opinion.” Now it appears to be under news. Time to send another email to YLE, which we have.

      By the way, if its clearly stated in a newspaper or magazine what is news and opinion, why isn’t this the case at YLE?

    • Farang

      It looks like they don’t have such a keyword anymore as “näkökulma”. All other “opinion pieces” are also under “news”.

      Seems they only have two categories: news and sports

  4. ganktoe

    YleOulu published also another “opinion piece” by Immonen.
    Here:
    http://yle.fi/uutiset/olli_immonen_viimeinen_naula_itsenaisen_suomen_arkkuun/5063675
    This is also poste under news, so the erronous labeling seems to be an editorial choice made by the Oulu desk. Either that or incompetence.
    “Serious” opinion pieces are in the category “Blogit”. This piece nor the “Kulttuuripolitiikan…” piece do not appear in the YleOulu main site news stream, but this “viimeinen naula” piece can be found with the site search.

  5. FarangSuperior

    It clearly says on the top that this is Immonen’s personal column and also in the end of the article, it is signed by Olli Immonen.

    Same case in that other opinion piece which was discussed in this thread.

    So what is the problem? It is clearly informed that this is Immonen’s personal opinion so what else do you demand now? Should you be concentrating on some real problems instead of bull**it like this?

    • Mark

      How come Immonen has his own column on Yle Oulu at the moment?

    • Farang

      As Immonen is MP and also chairman of Sisu, he’s quite remarkable person in Finland, especially in Oulu.

      Same way as Alexander Stubb has his personal column in Finnair’s Blue Wings magazine. No difference.

    • Mark

      Except one believes in a disgraced political concept of racial and ethnic ‘purity’ and the other does not!

    • Farang

      Are you seriously suggesting that in democratic country we should discriminate people based on their personal opinions and beliefs?

      You allow people to write on news papers only if they have “correct” opinions?

      This is Finland, not North-Korea.

    • Mark

      This isn’t a privately owned newspaper – this is a national broadcasting organisation. It has a constitutional duty to provide politically impartial news coverage.

      And yet under that ‘news’ heading, we are actually getting a party political broadcast by the Nazi party! And that doesn’t concern you?

      This looks more like North Korea every day!

    • Farang

      After more thinking, I realised that your comment is pure form of fascism. And here you are accusing others as fascists.

    • Mark

      Farang

      You don’t know what fascism is! I doubt you could rub two coherant sentences together on the topic. And yet you constantly jump to defend fascists at every turn.

      It is a very lame argument to just reverse criticisms against you. You call it fascism and you offer no explanation of why.

      Personally, I don’t think that YLE has any obligation under ‘free speech’ laws to provide an unchallenged public platform to political extremists and white supremacists!

    • Farang

      You don’t understand the duties of broadcast company if you think that they shouldn’t print opinions of public figures. Their duty is to deliver information. It is not your position to determine what information should be delivered and what should be kept from the people.

    • Mark

      I think you misunderstand my complaint. I think they are okay to present his opinions and to report on Suomen Sisu. But it should be done critically. Opponents should be allowed to comment also. However, effectively giving him an ‘opinion column’ is going too far. If this was a private publishing company, they have their own freedom to set any editorial line they want, but this should be an uncompromising impartial news outlet.

      It’s not just that, though, there is the whole point of responsible political reporting. All political ideas are by their nature contentious, and so political ideas cannot be presented in this kind of ‘opinon column’ manner unless there is an opportunity for rebuttal. Indeed, they are simply regurgutating material he has himself written for his own blog column. That opens YLE up to the very serious charge of actually promoting his ideas! Again, private company, we cannot argue. State broadcaster? No, no, no, no!

    • Farang

      Who do you mean my “opponents”, should all Immonen’s opponents be contacted everytime they are going to publish Immonen’s opinion just in case they want to comment?

      And in return, should YLE contact Immonen everytime someone of his opponents are going to publish something, just in case Olli wants to comment?

      That makes no sense. The opponent are also free to publish opposing comments via YLE, so what is the problem?

    • Mark

      Farang

      Who do you mean my “opponents”, should all Immonen’s opponents be contacted everytime they are going to publish Immonen’s opinion just in case they want to comment?

      Why do you always interpret other people’s comments in the most extreme way possible? I don’t get that.

      Political journalism usually provides one or two quotes of political opponents. It is the job of a political journalist to obtain these quotes and usually a political press office is more than happy to provide them when asked.

      However, as this was effectively a ‘column’, then some kind of comment section should be opened up, where people can be critical or supportive of the views expressed. I see no reason why a politician should be given free advertising space by a national broadcaster. Either the opinion piece is offered as a means to generate debate, and that debate should be visible. Indeed, have there been any replies to these two pieces by Immonen by any other politician? It is not unusual for a politician to write an opinion piece, but you will not find them published as such on a national broadcaster’s media. They are published in newspapers that share a similar ideological line to the politician and are happy to give them a platform.

      The other issue here is ‘normalising extremism’. Suomen Sisu, for whom he largely speaks now, are an organisation that opposes intermarriage. That is an extremist position. They also promote misogynist policies for women, encouraging them to stay at home and have babies. This extremism is not mentioned and no history or context for these opinions is being given. NONE. That is a failure. Journalists should give context, especially to recognised extremist views. Normalising those views and treating them as if they were part of the normal political debate acts to promote extremism and make it acceptable.

      The opponent are also free to publish opposing comments via YLE, so what is the problem?

      Are they? Why have there been no replies? Telling us that we are free doesn’t seem to be born out by the evidence. Are you really telling me that a fascist interpretation of the role of art to serve as political propoganda has no critics in Oulu?

      This is a serious breach of public trust by the national broadcaster.

  6. Farang

    Mark

    Why do you always interpret other people’s comments in the most extreme way possible? I don’t get that.

    To show the dangers what would happen if that was enforced.

    However, as this was effectively a ‘column’, then some kind of comment section should be opened up, where people can be critical or supportive of the views expressed.

    I agree. I have contacted YLE about this, but no success.

    Are they? Why have there been no replies?

    Most propably nobody has disagreed with what he wrote.

    • Mark

      Farang

      To show the dangers what would happen if that was enforced.

      I am not happy with this response. The problem is that you create straw men. If you said, okay, you have a point, how would it work in practice, then we can get on to the points you want to make. But by taking only the most extreme interpretation of what I’m saying, we end up missing any sensible moderate ground where we can actually have a sensible conversation. I’m left tidying up your mess, the mess being the distorted interpretations that you put on quite simple points. It seems that everything I say to you is seen as ‘extreme’, when in reality, I’m quite pragmatic.

      I agree. I have contacted YLE about this, but no success.

      But does that also mean you understand the importance of not giving politicians free advertising?

      Most propably nobody has disagreed with what he wrote.

      I don’t think that is true. Suomen Sisu’s views about art are the most obviously fascist of all the ideas. The idea of racial purity has been re-manufactured into a kind of ‘cultural self-defence’, looking after ‘Finnish’ traditions and identity, without looking at the question of how this ‘racial/cultural purity’ impacts on those that choose to intermarry. The strong ‘ingroup’ inevitably leaves people out of this ‘family’, and that can lead to personal discrimination, which no-one should have to tolerate. The role of women as breeders is particularly old fashioned, it’s almost ‘quaint’. It’s almost as if you cannot take it seriously, and in that sense it is seen as almost ‘harmless’ these days….and yet history tells a different story, that lack of equality seriously harmed women and society. Not only were women the silent victims of violence and oppression, but the public sphere was male-dominated, and much the poorer for it. Is it a coincidence that war is much less palatable to the public these days now that women are in the public sphere, and men’s unchallenged dominance and masculinity games have been tempered somewhat?

      I really don’t think that Suomen Sisu should get a free ride over these things. They should be taken to task. Is there no-one in Oulu to prevent a different point of view to what is effectively a left-over neo-Nazi organisation, albeit it that they are in a frantic process of making themselves over?

      Context is everything!

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