Journalists should question instead of spread racism and prejudice

by , under Enrique

Journalists are one group that have helped to spread and reinforce our prejudices and racism of other groups. There’s nothing surprising about this considering that journalists, like the media that employs them, mirror in part what the public feels. 

Ilta-Sanomat is one tabloid resonsible for spreading racism in Finland during the 1990s. This billboard tells us that Somali refugees will stay put in Finland.

Even if this may be the case, the difference between a sharp and mediocre journalist is how well he or she can question and expose abuses in our society. The job of the media is to be a watchdog and ensure that our system of checks and balances functions properly.

Too many journalists and the media, however,  forget what their primary role is. Instead of questioning social ills, they have helped to spread prejudice, racism and xenophobia in our society.

Closing one’s eyes to racism or going after such a social ill without teeth is unfortunate because we all lose. The spirit of our laws, like our Constitution, should be our moral shield and benchmark.

Check out section seven of Finland’s  Constitution:

No one shall, without an acceptable reason, be treated differently from other persons on the ground of sex, age, origin, language, religion, conviction, opinion, health, disability or other reason that concerns his or her person.

Even if the highest law of the land tells us convincingly that discrimination is wrong, why do some journalists and the media have a difficult time figuring out what is intolerance and what should our response to such a social ill be?

One of the most racist papers in Finland is tabloids like Iltalehti and Ilta-Sanomat, which markets news like a used car salesman, who would even sell his or her mother if the price were right. Another publication is Uusi Suomi, which helped Perussuomalaiset (PS) politicians like Jussi Halla-aho, James Hirvisaari and a long list of others to become household names.

Online publications like Uusi Suomi and tabloids like Iltalehti are responsible for spreading stereotypes like that immigrants are lazy, rape and commit crimes in this country.

A good example of how prejudice and stereotypes of foreigners are maintained and spread by the media is a reent story on Länsi-Savo, teaching Russians how to use the toilet bowl.

Another example that fuels stereotypes and racism in this country is a non-story about banning in Finland the use of the burqa and niqab.

I have never seen a woman wearing such clothing in Finland. I wonder how many of the journalists at Iltalehti have never mind anti-immigration PS MPs, who want to ban the use of such clothes in our country.

Coverage of racism, hate speech and  social exclusion has improved thanks to much better reporting by Helsingin Sanomat, Etelä-Suomen Sanomat, Keskisuomalainen, Savon Sanomat, Kainuun Sanomat, Karjalainen, Turun Sanomat, Kansan Uutiset and others.

These papers have done a good job at doing their job.