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Thursday's papers: Journalists under pressure, the continuing Väyrynen saga, gender equality in the media

Among the items today, police are given leave to examine electronic devices seized from a journalist reporting on security affairs, Paavo Väyrynen's party expulsion is blocked, and Helsingin Sanomat declares for gender balance in its reporting.

Daily newspapers.
Image: E.D.Hawkins / Yle

Helsingin Sanomat carries a report first published online Wednesday afternoon that Helsinki District Court has issued a warrant for police to examine materials seized from the home of one of its journalists, Laura Halminen, in December.

Halminen is one of two journalists responsible for a report published by Helsingin Sanomat about the Defence Forces' Intelligence Research Centre that included information from leaked classified documents.

During a search of her home in December, which was carried out without a court order, police seized Halminen's personal phone, her company phone, her personal computer and iPad, as well as a large number of USB flash drives.

The court decision means than police can investigate the contents of the devices they seized. Up until now, investigators have been banned from examining any material that may be considered as coming from the journalist's confidential sources.

The aim of the examination is to determine if the material is protected under media law.

Last month, the same court ruled that the search and seizure by police was legal. Halminen says she will appeal that decision.

No reply from Turkey

Also on the law and the media, Turun Sanomat reports that Finnish President Sauli Niinistö has received no response whatsoever to a letter he sent to his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan in October concerning a prison sentence handed to a Finnish-Turkish journalist.

The case involves Ayla Albayrak, who is a Finnish-Turkish citizen and a writer for the US publication The Wall Street Journal. She has recently has been residing in Berlin.

Albayrak was convicted and sentenced in absentia by a Turkish court in October last year for producing terrorist propaganda and supporting Kurdish separatists after writing a 2015 story about the Turkish government's conflict with the Kurds.

President Niinistö wrote Erdogan a letter described as "an extremely strong message" immediately after news of Albayrak's conviction.

The President's office confirmed on Wednesday that there has been no response from Erdogan or any other Turkish government representative. It is standard international practice that messages from one head of state to another are at the very least acknowledged.

Väyrynen wins this round

The Kuopio-based Savon Sanomat was among the papers that report that veteran politician Paavo Väyrynen has won at least a delay in his expulsion from the Finland's Citizens' Party which he established in 2016. Värynen was dismissed from the party on March 3rd for his misuse of bank accounts and election funds.

Väyrynen challenged the decision to take away his party membership, arguing that the meeting of the party council that made the decision was not legally convened.

The court agreed and has ordered that the expulsion be suspended.

Party chairman Sami Kilpeläinen told Savon Sanomat that there have been no disagreements with Väyrynen over party policy, but there has been a loss of confidence, not only because of the financial inconsistencies, but also because Väyrynen is seeking to play an active role within the Centre Party.

Women in the media

Today, International Women's Day, Helsingin Sanomat announced that from now on, it will keep a realtime count of what percentage of people in its reporting are women.

Looking over its own reporting for the past month, the paper found that only about 30% of the people mentioned by name are women. For every woman that featured in a report, there were 2.2 men.

Helsingin Sanomat says that it has now made a decision to actively increase the number of women in its reporting with the aim of gradually reaching gender equality for its content.

As part of this plan, the paper has started using analytic software developed in Sweden that shows gender balance in its journalistic production.

Helsingin Sanomat says that social structure is only one reason for the present situation in the media. Decisions made by journalists themselves have a major impact, "Who do we let speak as experts, from whose perspective do we look at issues, what in general do we stress in the news?”

Helsingin Sanomat adds, though, that the aim is not to just mechanically increase the number of women in reports through some sort of gender quota. What is essential, it says, is in what roles women and men appear and what subjects the different genders talk about.

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