What is better: Scoring high on the World Press Freedom Index or uncritical reporting?

by , under Enrique Tessieri


Finland will wake up too late when incompetent populist parties, their politicians and policies lead us to the doorsteps of hell just like what happened in Germany after 1933.

Even if Finland ranks second in the World Press Freedom Index after Norway, how high does it score when it writes about populism, radical-right nationalism, policies that fuel social exclusion, and racism?

The fact that Finland’s largest daily, Helsingin Sanomat, has not written an editorial denouncing racism and how damaging populism is to the country, tell us of the extent of our denial.

Why have no dailies investigated how Finland’s geopolitical isolation during the Cold War helps the country to fall prey to populist and racist parties like the Perussuomalaiset (PS)*?

Since almost everyone, especially most of the Finnish mainstream media, is fascinated with opinion polls these days, it’s clear that dailies like Helsingin Sanomat will give parties like the PS space and the benefit of the doubt.

A media that turns a blind eye to a threat like the PS is leaving our future to chance. Fortunately, Finland does have – even if only a few – solid columnists like Yrjö Rautio, who offers well-rounded analyses of the PS in his columns.

A recent interview Saturday in Helsingin Sanomat of PS chairperson Jussi Halla-aho is a good example of uncritical journalism. Halla-aho built his political career by inciting hatred on groups like Muslims with Islamophobia, homophobia, and racism to name only a few.

In 2012, he was convicted of ethnic agitation and for breaching the sanctity of religion.

You can read some of his most racist quotes in English here.

This list is the DNA of the Perussuomalaiset party but is rarely asked about them.

It is unfortunate for our democracy that the Finnish media doesn’t do more to hold parties like the PS accountable for what they say and do.

A tweet by @TuomoKondie gives us a ten-point list of some questions that Helsingin Sanomat and other media could ask Halla-aho:

  • Racism spread by the PS;
  • Links with neo-Nazi groups;
  • Pipedream [and neo-liberal] economic policies;
  • Why they sympathize with Russian leader Vladimir Putin?
  • Scapegoating migrants for all of Finland’s problems;
  • Systematic lying;
  • Why PS politicians have the most criminal convictions than of any other party?
  • Harassing those that oppose the PS;
  • Climate change denial and naivety;
  • Unqualified politicians.

Here is something that every journalist in Finland should take into account when writing about the PS:

The Perussuomalaiset is not a normal party. It isn’t normal because it built its base on racism, far-right extremism, and neo-liberal economic and social models. It has an utter disrespect for our Nordic values. One of these is Section 6 of the Constitution that states: “No one shall, without an acceptable reason, be treated differently from other persons on the ground of sex, age, origin, language, religion, conviction, opinion, health, disability or other reason that concerns his or her person.”

Below are more examples and disappointments of how uncritically the Finnish media writes about the PS.

Too few of them put the PS in the hot seat and why they spread and support social discrimination, exclusion, racism, and scapegoat near-constantly migrants for all of the country’s problems.