The Finnish media should check their facts better when it comes to news about migrants

by , under Enrique Tessieri

Migrant Tales has published a lot of stories about how the Finnish media portrays migrants and minorities in its stories. In 2015, we published a series of articles called Migrant Tales’ Hall of Fame of Poor and Sloppy Journalism.

Finland has a lot of top-quality journalists. Even so, the coverage of migrants like asylum seekers by the media is in too many cases not only slanted and unfair but deficient, even racist and misleading at times.

 Helsingin Sanomat. called last month The Squad, who are four congresswomen of color as “people of migrant origin.” On the left is the first take and on the right the corrected headline.  

A recent example of such opinionated and poor journalism was the coverage of migrants suspected of sexual assault in Oulu. Migrant Tales documented 77 stories published between November 27 and February 13. On January 14, Yle published in one day 13 stories about the topic!  

In its coverage of the Oulu sexual assault cases, Yle forgot one of its most important rules: fairness. You don’t need a bazooka to kill an ant.

Having been a journalist and foreign correspondent in countries like Spain, Argentina, Italy, Colombia, and Finland for over 20 years have taught me a thing or two about how the media frame migrants and minorities.

Without getting into a more in-depth discussion about the topic, I am always amazed at how a far-right Islamophobic party like the Perussuomalaiset (PS)* has set the pace and given its anti-immigration rhetoric a lot of weight.

The PS is always bringing up new fear-mongering topics for public consumption. The latest one is a pseudo-theory about how white Finns in the face of migration will end up becoming a minority in their county.

Even if these pseudo-theories are racist and misogynistic, the PS would care less. Making outrageous claims is one of the communication strategies of racist parties like the PS. Below is an example of how it works:

 A politician makes an outrageous claim to a journalist, who doesn’t even bother to question its veracity. Eventually, the journalist may do some investigating and find out that he or she was fed malarkey. By then it’s too late because the story is already out there.

Journalists should watch out for the following matters when writing about the PS’ and other parties’ anti-immigration stances:

They rarely say directly that they are targeting Muslims;

-They use code to refer to Muslim asylum seekers/people of color such as “harmful immigration,” “social welfare freeloaders,” “mass immigraion,” “person/people of foreign origin” and others;

-Since they are speaking of these groups, who are mostly Muslims and asylum seekers, they refer to about 10% of all migrants in Finland;

-When a PS politician starts to speak about these groups, the reporter should ask what group they mean and how many people he or she is talking about;

-Since the media allows the PS to speak of migrants in the most general terms, it gives the impression that all or most migrants in Finland are asylum seekers;

-Do some journalists and the media write this way because they too are Islamophobic?

The far-right Perussuomalaiset (PS) party imploded on June 13, 2017, into two factions, the PS and New Alternative, which is now called Blue Reform. In the last parliamentary election, Blue Reform has wiped off the Finnish political map when they saw their numbers in parliament plummet from 18 MPs to none. 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.