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Monday's papers: Hungary's anti-Finland propaganda, unpicked berries, and the heatwave continues

Criticism of Finland's press and judiciary, scarcity of berry pickers affecting harvest, and Finland is warmer than Spain.

Uimari hyppää mereen Kalasatamassa Helsingissä 20. heinäkuuta.
Temperatures in Finland are predicted to exceed 30 degrees over the coming week. Image: Emmi Korhonen / Lehtikuva

Leading daily Helsingin Sanomat reports on yet another article by Hungarian news website Origo which is highly critical of Finland’s judiciary and media freedom. The latest piece, entitled “I bet you didn’t know this about Finland”, was written by Zoltán Kovács, Secretary of State for International Relations and Communications at the office of the Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

According to HS, the Origo news website is owned by Orbán’s populist Fidesz party and has produced a string of critical articles since Finland took over the EU presidency at the beginning of July.

In the latest tirade, Kovács writes that Finns “preach water, drink wine” which HS interprets as an accusation that Finns are hypocrites about matters like freedom of the press. The article further states that the plurality of voices in Finnish media is "seriously threatened", that Finland does not have a constitutional court, and that the independence of the Finnish judiciary is "non-existent", according to HS.

Päivi Nevala, of the Finnish Foreign Ministry, responded to the article on Twitter by linking Kovács to the Reporters Without Borders and World Justice Project reports for 2019. Finland tied for second place in the 2019 Press Freedom Index rankings published by NGO Reporters Without Borders (RSF). Hungary ranked 87th.

Berries left to rot

Many newspapers describe the problems facing the berry industry this summer, with Turku daily Turun Sanomat reporting that the low numbers of Thai berry pickers in Finland this year will have an effect on the overall harvest.

Authorities in Thailand limited the amount of pickers who could apply for visas to Finland to 2,400 - the same figure as last year - despite appeals from the industry for an increase in applicants. In 2015, there were 4,000 berry pickers from Thailand in Finland for the summer season, and the smaller number of pickers will have a detrimental effect on the harvest, according to Janne Naapanki, Managing Director of the Kainuu-based Arctic International.

The 2018 conviction of a berry firm owner for trafficking 26 Thais into Finland may have influenced the Thai authorities' decision to refuse the ministry's request.

“There is a risk that the current amount of pickers will not be enough to collect the berries, even if there are some in the forest,” Naapanki tells Turun Sanomat. “We would need hundreds more pickers in addition to the hundreds of Thai pickers now coming. Sales would grow even more if we could get the raw material.”

Despite the best efforts of the pickers currently working in Finland's forests, bilberries and lingonberries will be left to rot if there are not enough people to pick them, according to TS.

Tampere hotter than Las Palmas

Many newspapers also carry weather-related stories, as Finland prepares for temperatures of over 30 degrees this coming week.

According to tabloid Ilta-Sanomat, many Finns are now regretting their hasty decisions to book foreign holidays after the much cooler start to the summer in Finland. Many of the tourist resorts popular with Finns will be cooler than parts of Finland.

The Canary Islands resort of Las Palmas, for example, will be 23 degrees Celsius on Saturday, while it will be a full 10 degrees warmer in the Finnish city of Tampere. Other popular resorts, such as the Mediterranean islands of Cyprus and Rhodes and the Croatian seaside cities of Split and Dubrovnik, will not exceed 30 degrees.

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