Finnbay provides subscription-based English-language reporting about Finland for global distribution. The media organisation’s website also highlights the launch of English and Russian-language print versions this summer.
On Sunday Finnbay reported that Finland would continue its cooperation with Russia regardless of the views of the European Union and the United States. Following the publication of the news item, Finland’s Ambassador to Russia Hannu Himanen tweeted that the report was inaccurate.
"Beware: this link leads to a bogus website. The report is utter nonsense and completely misrepresents the views of Finland," he wrote.
Earlier this month Finnbay reported to is global audience that Finland was agitated over Russian military exercises. Media outlets such as NBC in the United States picked up and relayed the Finnbay story. Finnbay later continued the theme using an interview with Defence Force publicist Eero Karhuvaara, who told Yle that his comments were used inaccurately.
"Fishing for visibility or propaganda"
Markku Kivinen, head of the Russia-centred think tank Aleksanteri Institute said Finnbay’s recent flavour of reporting raised two alternatives.
"Either it is fishing for news and visibility or then it’s pure propaganda. This kind of news is being traded globally because at this point Russian military actions are in the spotlight," Kivinen told Yle.
Finnbay is listed as a think tank or research centre in the European Union’s transparency register. The registration was lodged on December 1 last year and Finnbay then described itself as "a mass media firm that creates and distributes industry-leading content across a variety of platforms to audiences around the world." The outlet says it offers comprehensive coverage of news about Finland.
Officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs meanwhile say they are following the latest developments.
"The Foreign Ministry is closely monitoring how Finland’s national image is developing globally. Of course we hope that information about Finland spread worldwide is factual and truthful. We are interested in what kind of picture of Finland is being conveyed around the world, since it affects our image," said Foreign Ministry communications chief Keijo Norvanto.
Finnbay has not commented on the criticism, but has published a defence of its reporting on its own website, revealing that it is considering legal action against the Finnish Ambassador to Russia, Himanen.
Webpage registration secret
Yle was unable to find any information about the individuals behind the registration of the Finnbay website. The identity of the site owners is hidden behind the dummy service “WhoIsTrustee”. The Finnbay website also does not mention the editor in chief although Finnish law expressly requires such information for web and print news.
Finnbay’s director is listed as Onur Yalcintas and the business website lists a company address on the Esplanade in Helsinki with branch offices in Tampere, Jyväskylä, Turku and Oulu. It adds that all of its employees save two are foreign-born and the company invites its readers to learn more about their media background on the Finnbay blog site, "Learn about Finnbay: Finland".
Finnbay says it prints some 15,000 papers, which are available monthly across Finland as well as in St. Petersburg and Moscow. Its web content resides behind a pay wall.
ANSA: Finnbay does not represent us
Finnbay claims affiliation with ANSA, Italy’s leading news agency and names it as a valued partner. However ANSA told Yle that no partnership agreement exists between the two parties, nor does Finnbay represent ANSA in any way.
ANSA said Finnbay has negotiated distribution rights to use some of its material, a common type of agreement, of which ANSA has hundreds worldwide. The Italian news agency also said it has an exchange agreement with Finnbay as it hopes to receive information about Finland. However the agency has never used any Finnbay material in its own reporting.
ANSA is Italy’s largest news agency and is owned by 36 major media companies. It has 79 bureaus in 74 countries.