By Enrique Tessieri
Helena Eronen , the Perussuomalaiset (PS) parliamentary aide who suggested in a satirically intended blog entry that foreigners and minorities should start wearing armbands, appeared on two talk shows Friday. One of the most disturbing matters that is reinforced in both interviews is Eronen’s Hirvisaari-spirited view of immigrants and contempt for press freedom.
Calls to limit press freedom have been the strongest from the PS. Every time a scandal breaks out, and there have been many in the past year from the PS, too many times the standard response is that of the victim blaming the “elitist” media of bullying.
The PS, Eronen and especially Hirvisaari, who was fined for hate speech in December, conveniently forget that it is the job of our media to hold accountable what politicians say and be society’s watchdog. What would we think of our media if they didn’t report all those unpleasant things about elected officials such as PS MP Teuvo Hakkarainen or former PS councilman Tommi Rautio, who suggested to decorate a Finn for killing in cold blood a Muslim?
Hirvisaari’s contempt for press freedom is a cause for grave concern. He has described journalists as “bloodthirsty hyenas” as well as “arrogant and lying scum.”
This concern appears to be held by the PS parliamentary group as well, which suspended the PS MP for five months for not sacking Eronen.
Apart from the EU, immigrants and especially Islam, some PS members have a serious issue with the media. We have nothing to worry about, however, as long as the powers of the media are not curtailed. Spotting double-talk and holding politicians and their aides accountable are the best insurance against tyranny and far-right ideology.
It is easy to spot the rigmarole of the far right in Finland. Eronen, who used to advertise on her Uusi Suomi blog that she belonged to the anti-immigration Muutos2011, said she thought ethnic profiling by the police was wrong but acceptable in some cases.
The way Eronen tried to defend ethnic profiling “in some cases” reveals the concern expressed by the office of the Ombudsman for Minorities. Rainer Hiltunen, the Minority Ombudsman’s head of office, said this month that he receives calls from foreigners who say they have been repeatedly questioned in the street by police. Some of those stopped are naturalized Finns and visible minorities.
Eronen apologized on A-studio but with her fingers crossed behind her back. She says that she is sorry if what she wrote offended some people but thanked her boss Hirvisaari for standing up for her and his convictions.
Apparently one of those questionable convictions is that it is acceptable to write about armbands that bring back stark memories of the Holocaust and that ethnic profiling is fine by the police.