Helsingin Sanomat apologizes again for Estonian story but what about JSN’s Uimonen?

by , under Enrique Tessieri

There’s an interesting story on Saturday’s Helsingin Sanomat where editor Kaius Niemi apologizes (again) for a story published on Estonians earlier this month after it become clear that a complaint had been made to the Council of Mass Media in Finland (JSN). 

The story that was removed asked readers to vote for the best nickname for Estonians. Some offensive names for Estonians that readers could vote on included virukset (virus = a person who is half Estonian and half Russian), kroonit (they’re so much after moneyand retiisit (during Soviet occupation Estonians were red from the outside but white inside).

While the JSN aims at ensuring good professional standards in Finland by journalists and the national media, should JSN head Risto Uimonen take a look at the mirror for statements he made in January after the Charlie hebdo attack in Paris?

Uimonen was quoted as saying on Yle in English that what happened in Paris was an example of a clash of civilizations between the West and the Islamic world.

“This is a strong attack on democracy and freedom of speech,” he was quoted as saying on Helsingin Uutiset. “It pits two understandings of democracy, western and Islamic, against each other–and they can’t be reconciled.”

Näyttökuva 2015-4-11 kello 13.57.10


Read full story (in Finnish) here.

Uimonen’s claim, which paints over 1.4 billion Muslims with a single brush, is very similar to the Islamophobic discourse we hear commonly in Europe.

What is wrong with what Uimonen said if we look at some of the guidelines* that the JSN has for journalists? Here are some points:

  • Was the statement true?
  • Does Uimonen’s statement about Muslims give the media a green light to be Islamophobic?
  • Did Uimonen state that this was his opinion?
  • Did he speak on behalf of the JSN?

The JSN head should know that stereotyping and painting a whole group with a single brush is one of the challenges that Finnish and Western media faces in reporting fairly about our ever-growing culturally diverse society where Muslims are also members.

The Helsingin Sanomat story is a case in point but with a good ending: The daily understood its mistake whereas Uimonen hasn’t.

* See JSN guidelines for journalists.