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All Points North #36: Media coverage of child sex abuse allegations with Anu Koivunen and Sam Kingsley

Multiple cases of suspected underage sex crimes have roiled the country recently, and APN takes a look at media reporting on the issue.

Audio: Yle News

This week APN examined how the media has handled reports of recent alleged sex abuse crimes that police suspect were carried out by immigrants. The topic has raised the public's worry and outrage and grabbed the attention of lawmakers who quickly decided to increase the legal penalties for sex offences. As of Friday's programme, none of the suspects had been charged. Along with special guests media researcher Anu Koivunen and journalist Sam Kingsley, APN examined how the Finnish media has handled the ongoing sensitive subject so far.

Due to Finland's laws on personal privacy, the topic of sexual abuse crimes - particularly when children are the victims - is not one that generally receives a lot of attention in the media because police don't often publicly announce preliminary investigations in such cases. When cases like these do reach the courts, they're heard behind closed doors.

But this time, the Finnish media provided a steady drumbeat of reportage on suspected offences in Oulu and Helsinki, as the police mentioned that the alleged perpetrators had foreign backgrounds.

Journalist Kingsley said that the media has a lot of power, and so it should carefully consider the ramifications of its coverage. He noted that his own employer, AFP news agency had to consider whether the Oulu case crossed the international news threshold. But once the Finnish President weighed in on the issue and Parliament began to consider tighter legislation, there was consensus that a story was warranted.

Media researcher Koivunen added that since 2015, the media has also been more sensitive to social media trends, feeling compelled to report on subjects that have animated the public. She regretted that coverage of the alleged child sex abuse cases in Finland - which police say are not related - is now being rolled into Finland's stance on UN humans rights conventions and the larger immigration debate. Finland decided on Friday to review international conventions to which it is a signatory with a view to better manage immigration policy.

Top news: Junior lionesses, racially-motivated shooting

Audience favourites on Yle News social media sites this week included news of the bronze medal claimed by Finland's junior women's ice hockey team in Japan. The young Finnish team's impressive run for the championship title ran into a wall when they were defeated 7-1 by the US in the semi-finals.

Another news story that attracted interest was a report on unknown assailants firing three shots through a Finnish-Iraqi couple's front door in the municipality of Kangasala, near Tampere, narrowly missing the head of the female occupant of the home. The Finnish woman speculated that the act was racially-motivated and influenced by the alleged child sex abuse reports from Oulu and Helsinki.

And finally, a story on a snow church in Lappeenranta, southeast Finland. The town's vicar said visitors can attend services there three times a week - and even exchange wedding vows if they wish. But brides- and grooms-to-be better be quick about it, as the frosty chapel will probably melt by March.

If you have any questions, or would like to share something on your mind, just contact us via WhatsApp on +358 44 421 0909, on our Facebook or Twitter account, or at yle.news@yle.fi.

The All Points North podcast is a weekly look at what's going on in Finland. Subscribe via iTunes (and leave a review!), listen on Spotify and Yle Areena or find it on your favourite podcatching app or via our RSS feed.

This week's show was presented by Zena Iovino and Mark B. Odom. Our producer was Pamela Kaskinen, the interview with child sex abuse researcher Julia Korkman was contributed by Denise Wall and the sound technician was Joonatan Kotila.

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