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Ex-news anchor convicted of ethnic agitation over Facebook posts

The former news personality described the language used to talk about Muslims and Somalis as colourful, but not criminal.

Image: Helena von Alfthan / Yle

The Länsi-Uusimaa district court has convicted local politician and former MTV3 news anchor Seppo Huhta on charges of ethnic agitation over Facebook posts he wrote in 2016.

In the posts, the alternate Espoo city councillor, who is said to be a member of the Blue Reform, called for Muslims to leave Europe and declared that they are not suited to civilised countries. The court also found that in the posts, which were written between January and February in 2016, Huhta used derogatory language to refer to Muslims and Somalis.

The court convicted the former Finns Party member for writing what it deemed to be slanderous and abusive posts about Muslims and Somalis. It found that although Huhta’s intention was to present views that were critical of immigration and migrants convicted of criminal offences, he should not have slandered entire ethnic groups in the manner that he did.

The court said that the comments constituted hate speech, were generalisations, and could generate contempt and hostility toward Somalis and Muslims.

Defendant: Opinions based on political convictions

The former television personality said his intention was to use the posts to criticise immigration policy and said that he shared opinions that were based on his political convictions.

On the subject of his comments about crimes committed by immigrants, Huhta said that he was only referring to individuals found guilty of criminal activity. He described his language as colourful and said the terminology he used was commonplace.

"Although the use of language was in part inappropriate, the intention was only to highlight injustices and to stir up interest in the matter in the manner that he had learned as a journalist," court documents said of his defence.

The court ordered the defendant to pay a 40-day fine, which represents a total of 400 euros. He was also called upon to delete several Facebook posts put up in 2016.

Huhta still has the option of appealing the verdict, so the sentence is not yet enforceable.

Questions over party membership

According to the website of the city of Espoo, Huhta is a deputy councillor representing the Blue Reform, which split from the Finns Party in 2017.

However in May, Blue Reform vice president Tiina Ahva denied that Huhta was a member of the party.

"Huhta is not and has never been a member of the Blue Reform," she wrote in an email at the time.

During municipal elections in 2017, the ex-news reader lost his seat as councillor and became a reserve. He was a previous chair of the Blue Reform’s Espoo chapter.