Some 21 editors at Finland’s biggest media organisations have made a joint statement opposing what they describe as ‘fake media’. Several news sites have gained a strong following in Finland by publishing stories often slanted against minority groups and immigrants.
The stories are often misleading or inaccurate, but the websites are not committed to abiding by judgements from the Council for the Mass Media in Finland, which polices journalistic guidelines. That is a stark difference between mainstream media organisations and the newcomers. The largest website, MV-Lehti (“what the f*ck newspaper”), is run by Ilja Janitskin from Barcelona, Spain.
"Everyone can have opinions," said Helsingin Sanomat editor Kaius Niemi. "They can be starkly different, but facts are not things that you can bend and stretch. Fake websites offer manipulated, intentionally misleading information."
It’s an extraordinary step for the editors-in-chief of so many publications to join together like this, but circumstances dictated the move.
"Now we’ve hit the threshold," said Ahosniemi. "Many colleagues are of the opinion that we had to intervene in this situation."
The editors wrote in their joint statement that they would not allow their journalists to be pressured and slandered. Several Finnish journalists have been targeted for harassment or smear campaigns because of their work.
"When an attack hits, it’s pretty raw and tough," said the editor-in-chief of Yle’s news and current affairs division, Atte Jääskeläinen. "These attacks have nothing to do with good taste. One goal of this public statement is to demonstrate clearly that we will support our journalists. We want to make sure that our journalists are not silenced by this kind of behaviour. This is a strong statement that journalism in Finland should not submit to external pressure."
The statement does not name any specific ‘fake media’ website, but MV Lehti has led the most recent campaigns against journalists in the traditional media.
"They operate in a digital world and you could say that they are a kind of ‘fake media’," said Kauppalehti editor-in-chief and chair of the association of editors Arno Ahosniemi. "They’re not really media at all, they just want to intentionally confuse and mislead their audience."
"The question is how big a significance people attach to them and how much their messages are distributed and spread," said Jääskeläinen.