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Friday’s papers: Porvoo hearing, Ohisalo defence, housing benefit millions and bars defend slot machines

The Finnish press covers custody hearings and an Interior Minister setting out her plans to improve police work.

Porvoon ampumisesta epäiltyjen veljesten vangitsemisistunnot järjestettiin Vantaalla Itä-Uudenmaan käräjäoikeudessa 29. elokuuta 2019, kuvassa vanhempi veljeksistä.
The Porvoo shooting suspects were remanded into custody on Thursday. Image: Vesa Moilanen / Lehtikuva

The Granholm brothers’ hearing at Vantaa District Court occupied a fair amount of space in the Finnish press on Friday morning, but details were still scant on the suspects, their motivations, and almost everything else.

The suspected Porvoo police shooters’ hearing yielded few details for the public, but the papers still found plenty to write about. Helsingin Sanomat has the older brother’s rap sheet from the Swedish courts, while Ilta-Sanomat has six open questions after the day’s events.

The Porvoo case coincided with something of a (social) media storm engulfing Interior Minister and Green Party leader Maria Ohisalo, who has been heartily criticised by the radical right-wing Finns Party since she took office.

On Monday morning Iltalehti published an article based on an interview with Ohisalo headlined ‘Maria Ohisalo: Seeking asylum is a basic right that goes before everything else’. That’s quite a stance for an Interior Minister to take, and caused an avalanche of criticism from other politicians and ordinary citizens on social media, but she didn’t quite say that in the article.

Iltalehti offered Ohisalo a right of reply but refused to change the headline. If there is a complaint, the case will be ruled on by the self-regulation body the Council for the Mass Media in Finland (Finnish acronym JSN).

Since then she has been criticised both for drawing attention to previous governments’ cuts to police funding and for failing to demand extra funding off the back of the shootings.

On Friday she joins Seppo Kolehmäinen, who chairs the National Police Board, in penning an opinion piece in Helsingin Sanomat. She emphasises plans for a code of ethics for police, more officers patrolling growing cities, maximum response times and a plan to raise police numbers to 7,500 nationwide by 2022.

She does admit that Finland has the lowest number of police per capita in Europe, so it remains to be seen whether her critics will be placated.

Housing benefit benefits the big landlords

Ilta-Sanomat has a big report on the relationship between housing benefit payments and property companies’ profits, which is unsurprisingly pretty symbiotic.

In 2017 the city of Helsinki received nearly 40 million euros in housing benefit payments for rented accommodation it owns. Sato got 27 million euros while Kojamo, which is part-owned by Finnish trade unions, took 22 million euros.

The paper points out that in 2018 Kojamo paid trade unions some 20 million euros in dividends, making them beneficiaries of a system some have said keeps rents high.

Slot machine defence

Aamulehti reports on moves by the hospitality industry group MaRa to prevent slot machines being removed from bars, restaurants and petrol stations.

The proposal has been on the agenda thanks to a citizens’ initiative and some problematic Veikkaus advertising, but the businesses that host these gambling opportunities are reluctant to give them up.

MaRa says that removing the machines is an over-reaction.

“If the problem according to Veikkaus is 1.3 percent of households and the solution is removing slot machines completely from restaurants and petrol stations, in our opinion that is an over-reaction,” said MaRa CEO Timo Lappi.

The businesses make some 80 million euros directly from the 2,300 machines in bars and restaurants and roughly 800 in petrol stations.

They claim significant benefits in employment too, but as AL points out, the problems of gambling addiction are also left for these communities to deal with.

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