YLE emailed a Migrant Tales reader, who expressed concern Friday about an opinion piece written as news by Perussuomalaiset (PS) MP Olli Immonen. It was an odd coincidence that Immonen’s opinion piece was published in such a manner, considering that the PS MP is the new chairman of Suomen Sisu, a far right anti-immigration association.
The email sent by Teijo Valtanen, the regional and radio current affairs director, states: “Because in your opinion it wasn’t easily enough to distinguish that [what Immonen wrote] was an opinion piece, we will check these columns written [weekly on Fridays by Oulu region] MPs to ensure that they stand out sufficiently from news and are easily identifiable as opinion pieces.”
Thank you YLE. Even if Valtanen states that the broadcaster will take special care so that this mistake doesn’t happen again, this is exactly what should be always done. It’s the readers right to know if he or she is reading an opinion piece or a news story. Opinion is opinion and news stories are supposed to be fairly written without editorializing the topic.
In countries where the media is controlled by autocratic governments that have little respect for human rights, a strongman’s opinion can be presented as “news.”
Since the media plays an important role in our Western society to ensure Montesquieu’s checks and balances, the newsroom should be always off limits to representatives of the judiciary, legislative and executive.
Taking into account the attitude of some politicians especially from the PS, some of them would be more than happy to control what the media says. This became self-evident right after the PS’ historic victory in 2011. Both MPs Jussi Halla-aho and James Hirvisaari, who have been sentenced for ethnic agitation, tried to tell the media how they should write about the populist party.
Hirvisaari, who wanted the media to stop nicknaming the PS persu, which could be seen coming from the word perse, meaning anus, claimed in 2011 that YLE should be made redundant because it brainwashes the public.
Why shouldn’t we be worried if an opinion piece written by a party member who loathes the media appears as news?
Our reaction to such a mistake clearly showed that that we want politicians, especially like Immonen, to stay out of the newsroom.
The media does its job when it places politicians under scrutiny, especially those who want to undermine its role and compromise its independence.