Media Monitoring Group of Finland*: The Avarn Security scandal reveals a lot about how the media frames minorities

by , under Enrique Tessieri, Media Monitoring Group of Finland

THE STORY WAS UPDATED

After reading 77 stories published by Yle (9 stories), Helsingin Sanomat (19), Iltalehti (6), Ilta-Sanomat (30), and MTV (13) about the Avarn Security scandal, only one story alleges racism as a factor in the working culture of security guards. Another story by Ilta-Sanomat, which wrote about excessive force, only mentioned once a “person of foreign background” was apprehended by security guards.

Meanwhile, according to various media reports, a woman died on Saturday at Espoo’s Iso Omena shopping center. The woman was being escorted out of the shopping center by Securitas security guards. The police suspect that manslaughter is the cause of death.


Avarn Security guards holding down a victim. Source: Helsingin Sanomat.

While the youth gang stories hyped by the media have no problem labeling “persons of foreign background” as a source of the “problem,” there is no mention of ethnic profiling as a factor. Surprisingly, non of the 77 stories mention ethnic profiling at all.

Helsingin Sanomat asked in a story what the security guards’ motives were in using excessive violence and humiliating their victims. Another story by the daily alleged that excessive force is used against socially venerable and disadvantaged people.

What do they mean? The homeless? Drunks? Old people? People of color? Other minorities?

A comprehensive study in 2018 on ethnic profiling by the University of Helsinki showed how ethnic profiling, especially by security staff, was a source of concern.

“Many said [in the study] that security guards were often rude and treated them roughly, even violently,” said the University of Helsinki Professor Suvi Keskinen of one of the ethnic profiling study’s findings.

Migrant Tales has documented several stories about alleged excessive force used by security guards. All of the victims are non-white Finns. The latest case was a man traveling with his wife and two-month-old baby in December.

Many more cases can be cited.

Thanks to the groundbreaking Helsinki University study on ethnic profiling, the work of the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman against ethnic profiling, and the many stories told by minorities about the social ill, I wonder why it is taking the Finnish media so long to expose this unpleasant matter.

Apart from investigating ethnic profiling, I would write more about the lack of training that security guards receive.

And if I wanted to be especially bold, I would do an investigative story on why there is too little scrutiny by the police and security companies of their guards and how it has led to the present problem.

The media should and can do a much better job exposing all sides of the Avarn Security scandal.

*Media Monitoring Group of Finland, a new association in its nascent stage, aims to promote fair and accurate reporting by the Finnish media of underrepresented cultural, racial, ethnic, and religious groups. As Finland’s cultural diversity continues to grow, the role of the media in forming public opinion and attitudes about minorities becomes even more relevant.