THE STORY WAS UPDATED
Katja Kuokkanen, the reporter who wrote a provocative story about youth crime committed by non-white youths with the following headline: “Over one hundred possibly dangerous youths with migrant backgrounds roam about downtown Helsinki – according to experts, this is a new migrant phenomenon.”
The headline in Finland’s biggest daily could not be more disturbing since it automatically ends up labeling all youths with migrant backgrounds as criminals.
The claim made by the Helsingin Sanomat headline, which was later retracted with new stories and a Helsingin Sanomat column, is very similar to how sexual assaults are treated in the media and especially by Islamophobic parties like the Perussuomalaiset (PS).*
After the commotion had hit the fan, Malmberg points out in a column two days later that the story did not mean to label all brown Finns as criminals and that youth crime had gone down in Helsinki.
Sorry, but I have to disagree with Malmberg. He claims that the strong reaction to his opinionated and poorly researched story showed that we still don’t know how to debate these types of topics in Finland.
The problem isn’t that Finns don’t know how to debate sensibly about migrant topics, but we still live in deep denial about society’s and our own racism and prejudices of people of color.
One rule of thumb is to avoid simple answers to complex social questions.
The Helsingin Sanomat story brought memories of the hysteric reaction that the media fueled last year concerning Oulu’s sexual assault cases.
During November 27-February 13, Yle alone reported 77 stories on the topic, 13 on one day, about the sexual assault cases. During that period under review, the Oulu police published 13 statements on the topic.
The term “person of migrant origin” is a code word for a non-EU citizen, which implies a person of color or Muslim.
Officially, “person of migrant origin” means in Finland a person – irrespective if he or she was born in Finland – whose parents are not Finns. If one of the parents is a Finn, then the person is a Finn.
Anu Koivunen is a media researcher who often comments about the state of Finnish journalism. She tweets about Malmberg’s article:
“Hey @larimalmberg, wouldn’t it have been wise to think in yesterday’s HS story (10.11) the original headline (where you mentioned “group”) – which many reacted to – and fear-promoting style was what directed debate, which guided debate from your observer view. #journalism.”
One of the problems of Finland’s ongoing debate on its ever-growing culturally and ethnically diverse society is that the predominantly white media commonly give a lopsided – usually inaccurate – account of our communities.
Considering that 16% of Helsinki’s population is not white Finnish, Helsingin Sanomat appears to still not have a single journalist who is a minority and a full-time staffer.
At the end of the day, Malmberg’s column about so-called youth migrant crime is another example of how the media fails on this topic. The only accomplishment was reinforcing stereotypes and hand parties like the PS ammunition against migrants.