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Film director accused of sexual harassment urged to quit as chair of Helsinki cultural centres

On Thursday film director and former professor Lauri Törhönen issued an apology to victims of sexual harassment but said he would not comment on the claims in public.

Lauri Törhonen ja Nasima Razmyar.
Helsinki deputy mayor Nasima Razmyar (right) is calling on Professor Lauri Törhönen to step down as chair of Helsinki cultural centres. Image: Aku Häyrynen / Lehtikuva, Petteri Paalasmaa/ AOP

Helsinki’s deputy mayor responsible for arts and leisure Nasima Razmyar has called for ex-film studies professor Lauri Törhönen to relinquish his position chairing a municipally owned company in the wake of a slew of sexual harassment allegations published by Yle.

Razymar says that in light of the reports, he should resign as chair of the property management company overseeing the multipurpose Cable Factory and Suvilahti arts and culture centres in Helsinki.

The accounts provided by the women of Törhönen’s alleged unwanted advances are consistent and they say that his behaviour lasted from the 1980s to just after the turn of the millennium.

Razmyar: Törhönen "cannot continue"

Razmyar told Yle that she hoped that Törhönen would draw his own conclusions about his suitability to continue in the position, adding that city leaders are taking the harassment claims very seriously.

"Yesterday’s news was shocking and in many ways extraordinary," Razmyar said.

"However I sincerely hope that during the course of today, [he] will be able to draw conclusions about his position and his suitability [for it], but it is obvious that in my view he cannot continue in his current post," she added.

The deputy mayor also said she hoped that Törhönen’s staff would be allowed to continue their work in peace.

"This is very sad. But somehow I at least have also felt empowered to intervene. At this stage of course, huge thanks to the 20 courageous women who have been able to share their experiences. We all understand how difficult it is to go public in this way."

Razmyar said that the claims were "such a major issue that we will absolutely intervene in other ways if he doesn’t make the decision himself."

Törhönen apologises but stays silent on claims

On Thursday Professor Törhönen sent Yle a brief statement in which he commented on Wednesday’s harassment claims.

"As a result of an Yleisradio report about me published on 31.1, I offer my apologies to the persons I have harassed by looking at, touching or speaking with. I will not publicly comment in the accounts continued in the report," the professor said in the release.

Yle’s report which ran on Wednesday and which was the subject of its A-studio discussion programme the same evening indicated that Törhönen had sexually harassed a number of women. Some said that he sexually propositioned them during entrance exams.

The women said that Törhönen’s behaviour was widely known, but nothing had been done about it.

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