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Monday's papers: Grocery prices, FB death threats, anti-bullying and Berner continues crusade

Monday's print press in Finland talks about falling food prices, death threats on a closed Facebook page with Finns Party connections, the introduction of fees for the Kiva anti-bullying programme, and Transport Minister Berner's tweets about reviving transport reform.

Lidl came in second in the latest price comparison. Image: Jari Kovalainen / Yle

Finland’s largest circulation newspaper Helsingin Sanomat starts off the week with its latest analysis (siirryt toiseen palveluun)of grocery prices in 30 stores in the capital city region. The analysis is part of a series started in 2015, when the S Group retail chain loudly advertised it was cutting prices, a move many interpreted to be a response to the German Lidl chain’s encroaching market share. Monday’s comparison shows that the S shops have come through on their promise, as prices at the Prisma hypermarket in the Jumbo shopping centre were the lowest of the sample, leaving Lidl in second place. Lidl responded to the latest results by saying that unlike in their chain, prices in the S Group shops vary.

A Sunday article in the same paper also accused the S Group of market manipulation in its latest price cutting campaign targeting produce. For example, cucumbers at the Jumbo Prisma cost 2.53 euros per kilo last week, which led to problems keeping up with demand. Vegetable growers accuse the chain of selling the produce at a loss, but the chain says sales were up by ten percent last week as a result.

Be that as it may, the shopping basket full of basics like bread, milk and cheese was 12 euros cheaper at the Jumbo Prisma than a year ago, while equivalent groceries at the Lidl store in downtown Kamppi were seven euros cheaper. The Kesko chain total was also down on the previous year, as the food was over six euros cheaper there. State-owned data centre Statistics Finland confirms that grocery prices are generally down in Finland. The Monday analysis suggested that the most expensive food shops were the Stockmann Herkku and the Alepa and K-market convenience stores. See the original article (siirryt toiseen palveluun) for a run-down of the different prices.

Finns Party links to hate speech Facebook site

Savon Sanomat out of Kuopio features (siirryt toiseen palveluun)an STT story about the death threats that can still be found on the closed Facebook discussion sites of the MV group, linked to the anti-immigrant fake news website MV-Lehti. Among other things, the group’s members have fantasized about former president Tarja Halonen’s violent death and hoped that Transport Minister Anne Berner will be killed. Regular entries on the site call for the death of refugees, with some going to far as to say that asylum seekers freezing in the streets should be burned in incinerators or concentration camps should be reinstated.

MV-Lehti’s founder Ilja Janitskin has attached a post to the closed site saying that he answers for the content of the closed Facebook group. Finnish courts pressed charges against Janitskin, then a resident of Spain, in October 2016, and a European arrest warrant has been issued for him but his whereabouts are currently unknown.  He is suspected of agitating against an ethnic group, aggravated defamation, money laundering, copyright offenses and several other crimes. 

STT found at least 31 people connected with the closed Facebook MV group that are running in the April municipal elections as candidates for the populist Finns Party. Being a part of the group does not necessarily mean that the person has personally joined, as someone else can also invite them to the closed group, with no approval necessary. Finns Party MP Teuvo Hakkarainen, who was recently found guilty of hate speech in court, did not respond to the news agency’s comment request on his link to the MV group. Finns Party Secretary Riikka Slunga-Poutsalo, whose name can also be found on the site, also did not respond to a STT call.

Fees derail anti-bullying

Turun Sanomat from south-western Finland has a story (siirryt toiseen palveluun) on Monday about its popular Kiva anti-bullying programme for schools. The article focuses on how newly imposed annual fees for the instructional package have caused a severe drop in participating schools. It says that in Turku, for example, 10 off the 35 primary schools have dropped out of the programme since the new fee was introduced last autumn. The fee is anywhere from 50 to 400 euros, dependent on the number of students.

This is big news in Turku, as the comprehensive anti-bullying programme was developed at the Turku University and spread quickly through the country’s schools in 2009-2011, after it received Education Ministry financing. The programme was recognized to be very successful at eliminating bullying and harassing in schools, and a bid to export the effective programme was launched.

Kiva specialist Elisa Poskiparta says the programme had started to receive feedback that the video and game materials that were part of the package were becoming dated, and a fee was judged necessary to enable an update. Over 2,300 schools were registered in the Kiva programme before the fee was introduced, but since then the number has fallen to 900.

Transport Minister pleas for cooperation

And the tabloid Ilta-Sanomat looks at (siirryt toiseen palveluun) a Twitter entry from Transport Minister Anne Berner, who won’t let her ill-fated transport reform plan die without a fight. She says the 2.4 billion infrastructure repair deficit won’t go away by itself, and someone has to come up with alternatives.

“Someone has to be presenting solutions, otherwise there is nothing to discuss, work on or decide about. Finland has put off this renewal too long. We have to maintain our courage and keep bringing structural changes to the table that would add growth, employment, investment and pioneering new ideas,” she tweeted.

Berner said Finland will only be left with its selfish ambition and resentment if decision-makers resort to infighting and the public loses its trust in their ability to find a solution.

“We have to solve some major problems. How will we meet our national climate policy objectives? How will we renew our stock of cars, the second oldest in Europe? How will we build a favourable transport operating environment that can cater to digital services and automation? How can we inject more money into long-term development of our motorways? How can be overcome our repair deficit by 2027?”