The media must fact-check what xenophobic politicians spread and claim

by , under Enrique Tessieri


It is a good sign that some Finnish media like Yle are fact-checking what politicians say. However, it is a bit too late because the Perussuomalaiset (PS)* have built their popularity on making false claims about migrants.

I’m pretty certain that if we were to do a fact-check on all the claims about migrants since 2010, most of them would be false, grossly exaggerated, and outright lies.

In just a matter of a week, PS chairperson Jussi Halla-aho, who was convicted in 2012 for ethnic agitation and breaching the sanctity of religion, got called out for making false statements about migrants.

One of these false statements made by Halla-aho recently was that low-wage workers come to Finland, work for a few months, and then quit their jobs and live off social welfare. This is totally false.

Halla-aho made another false statement when he stated that one-third of income, housing benefit recipients are immigrants.

It’s one of the oldest tricks in the books used against journalists by xenophobic politicians is the following:  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.

Read the full story here.

For the PS, migrants and foreigners are a non-stop obsession. Some, like Halla-aho, have built their political career on victimizing, bashing, and spreading racist lies and exaggerations about migrants.

The media and sensible people must do everything possible to expose the PS’ false statements and claims.

This is an example of good journalism when HARDtalk host Stephen Sackur grilled Perussuomalaiset (PS)* chairman Timo Soini in 2013.

Common mistakes by the Finnish media when reporting on migration and minorities:    

  • White sources are always used as authorities when immigrants and minorities are the topic
  • Editors of Finland’s main dailies are white Finns
  • Immigrant and visible minority voices are rarely if ever, permitted to make their case
  • Editors too often ask white experts – rarely if ever migrant or minority experts – their view of the “immigrant problem”
  • We give inflated respectability and importance to racists because they mirror our attitudes
  • In Finland, the stronger racism became, the more airtime it gets
  • The rise of racism in our society and our coverage of it reveals how unbalanced and uncritical our media is
  • When it comes to fighting racism, the media are part of the problem