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Controversial Oulu politician launches another defamation case against a journalist

A regional prosecutor questions whether the police, prosecutors and criminal courts need to be involved in such cases.

Oulun käräjäoikeus
File photo of Oulu District Court. Image: Markku Hyttinen / AOP

Ethnic agitation-convicted Oulu city councillor Junes Lokka has brought another defamation case against a journalist.

This time, Lokka accused Iltalehti journalist Tommi Parkkonen of defamation, regarding a tweet the journalist posted in April 2019.

In a separate but similar case, journalist Johanna Vehkoo was earlier this month granted leave to appeal her defamation conviction for calling Lokka a "racist" and "Nazi clown" in a 2016 Facebook post.

Iltalehti's Parkkonen characterised his tweet as a primal reaction to the initial verdict in the Vehkoo case, saying he intended to criticise the court's decision. On the same day as Vehkoo was convicted, and in the same court, Lokka was charged with ethnic agitation for which he was later convicted and received 70 day-fines.

In his tweet, Parkkonen called Lokka "human waste" and used a number of other offensive expressions. He also signed off the tweet by sending his regards to the Oulu District Court, which had convicted Vehkoo on the defamation charge.

According to Parkkonen, Lokka should be able to tolerate this kind of language because he uses it himself. However, he said that on reflection the tweet was stupid and intentionally provocative.

"It was a frustrated reaction to the verdict Vehkoo received, and I guess its point was whether this could become a lawsuit too. Now that it has, maybe I would have done things differently," Parkkonen said, adding that he does not think he is guilty of defamation.

Lokka's history of insulting others

In addition to his incitement conviction for uploading a recording of an anti-immigrant and Islamophobic speech from a Helsinki demonstration to Facebook and YouTube, in a blog post, Lokka also called another man a "lunatic, a sociopath and a narcissist."

Lokka defended his remarks as being part of a debate, but a court ordered him to delete the post.

He also defended calling an Yle employee a "whore'' on the grounds that the term meant a person he did not like.

News agency STT asked Lokka if he was really defamed by the Parkkonen tweet, or whether he was trying to win political points.

"The Ministry of Justice says that hate speech is a punishable act and hate speech must be reported to the police ... Shouldn't we then obey what the Ministry of Justice says," Lokka replied, but added that he did not want to discuss the subject in more depth as he considered STT to be a "fake news" outlet.

Law open to interpretation

Deputy Chief Prosecutor Kirsi Männikkö, who was the prosecutor in the Vehkoo case, told Yle that in general that a prosecutor cannot refrain from prosecuting a case on the grounds that someone is seeking publicity or political gain.

Without commenting on specific cases, Männikkö added that Finland's defamation law may need to be critically reconsidered. Under the Penal Code, a person may be found guilty of defamation if they present false information or hint about another person in a way that is likely to cause harm, suffering or contempt.

In addition, the defamation clause may also be used if a person is considered to "degrade" another. According to Männikö, this wording leaves a lot of room for interpretation and she suggests that such cases could be treated as civil lawsuits. If they were, the injured party could still seek redress through the courts, but there would be no need for the police and prosecutor to be involved.

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