Pressiklubi gives simplistic, apologetic view on how the Finnish media is “more balanced” today when writing about non-white Finns

by , under Enrique Tessieri

It is surprising to hear how some politicians and journalists continue to have simplistic and apologetic views of racism and bigotry in this country. If YLE’s Päivi Happonen and Atte Kaleva’s words are to be believed on Pressiklubi, the Finnish media has finally woken up and writes more balanced stories about migrants and minorities that live in Finland. 

After Ruben Siller’s exit, Sanna Ukkola became Pressiklubi’s host. Don’t be surprised why her guests are who they are and say what they say on her program. Ukkola is married to Matias Turkkila, who has launched an all-out war against migrants in Finland through the Perussuomalaiset (PS)* party and hate platforms like Hommaforum.

When Kaleva claims, like on the show, that there are two extremes in the debate on our ever-growing culturally diverse society, what he is suggesting is that racism and bigotry aren’t issues in our society but only a consequence of the “two extremes” debate.

The way I see it, the rise of a party like the PS and their supporters in other parties have bulldozed and reaffirmed white power and privilege.

Here is what is really weird about Finland. White Finns (without usually the participation of migrants and minorities) can agree that we have to hear the other person’s opinions even if if is racist. What would they say if we spoke in the same disrespectful manner about women? That discussion would be off limits but the one relegating migrants and minorities to third-class members of society isn’t.

Päivi Happonen claims on Pressiklubi that the Finnish media reporting about migrants is more balanced. Even so, she forgets to mention that the reporting and narrative of the media is anchored in a very biased view of cultural diversity because the media is white and Christian.

As a minority who has lived in Finland for over thirty-five years, as a journalist that wrote for all the main publications of Finland, who has worked as a foreign correspondent in Finland, Spain, Italy, Argentina and Colombia, I consider Happonen’s and Kaleva’s affirmation oversimplistic and apologetic.

Racism and bigotry are deeply embedded in Finnish culture. We should ask minorities like the Roma, Saami and stereotypic portrayals of migrants for decades by the media if it were ever that “friendly.” On the contrary, the Finnish media has been the tool of power, and it has been used relentlessly against Others.

Happonen and Kaleva forget to mention how the media helped spread the Perussuomalaiset’s* (PS) Islamophobic and anti-EU message before and after the 2011 parliamentary election. Apart from the fact that some Finns are Islamophobic and xenophobic, even politicians like former Social Democrat chairwoman Jutta Urpilainen helped fuel the rise of the PS.

One of the problems when debating cultural diversity, migrants and migration in Finland and elsewhere is that generalizing is like walking on thin ice.

For a year, Migrant Tales followed the narrative of the media about migrants and what I found, unfortunately, in many cases was opinionated, racist and biased reporting with little to no self-reflection. Some of the worst cases were how the Finnish media even joined social media lynch groups.

An example of the latter was the rape of a Finnish woman in the Helsinki neighborhood of Tapanila.

Some of the Finnish media’s fascination of racists and far-right groups is something that does not cease to surprise me.

Go to this link to read the full story and examples of poor and biased journalism in Finland during 2015.

The Finnish media was never balanced before or today about migrants, minorities and our every-growing culturally diverse society.

* After the Perussuomalaiset (PS) party imploded on June 13 into two factions, the PS and New Alternative, which is now called Blue Reform. Despite the name changes, we believe that it is the same party in different clothing. Both factions are hostile to cultural diversity.  One is more open about it while the other is more diplomatic. 

A direct translation of Perussuomalaiset in English would be something like “basic” or “fundamental Finn.” Official translations of the Finnish name of the party, such as Finns Party or True Finns, promote in our opinion nativist nationalism and racism. We, therefore, at Migrant Tales prefer to use in our postings the Finnish name of the party once and after that the acronym PS.