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Wednesday's papers: Mutual consent, past Russian border tensions, mobile service wars

Finland's print press looks at sexual assault laws in Finland, events at the northeast border in late 2015-early 2016, and the hunt for mobile phone savings.

Mies ja nainen räpläävät kännyköitä.
Twenty percent of Finnish residents regularly switch their mobile phone subscriptions in pursuit of good service and prices. Image: Petri Aaltonen / Yle

Helsingin Uutiset carries a story on a new report from the human rights watchdog Amnesty on sexual assaults in Finland. Researcher Otava Piha will present the findings today in Helsinki, with former president Tarja Halonen, Finland's justice minister Antti Häkkänen and Kumi Naidoo, Amnesty International's secretary-general in attendance.

The report points out that only a fraction of the estimated 50,000 victims of sexual violence in Finland tell the authorities about what happened to them, and the response and care they receive varies widely. In 2017, the police were informed of 1,245 rape crimes, of which 71 were investigated. Only one third of these cases ever made it to a hearing in court. A sentence was only handed out for 209 of the cases.

The Finnish branch of the Amnesty organisation calls on Finland to improve its legal protection for victims of sexual offences, saying that Finnish law does not contain wording about the victim's lack of consent. At present, Finnish law defines rape in two ways: forced intercourse under the threat of violence, and cases in which the aggressors take advantage of the victims' inability to defend themselves. The victim's lack of consent is not written in the law, even though Finland has agreed to several international agreements that include this component.

"Sex without consent is rape," says Piha. "It would be important to change the definition of rape crimes [in Finland] as consent-based."

Remembering Finnish-Russian border tension

The tabloid Iltalehti reports on another book released today: Tiukka paikka (A Tight Spot), written by an Iltalehti reporter and the interior ministry's top civil servant, Päivi Nerg. The expose focuses on events at the Finnish-Russian border in Lapland in late 2015-early 2016.

During a three month period, the book says 1,700 asylum seekers from 36 different countries crossed into Finland from Russia – arriving at the border station on bicycles or in used Lada cars. The Finnish police and border guard started to investigate and found that a human trafficking network in Russia was assisting the asylum seekers by providing lodging at a local hotel and then the means to get to the border.

Norway also saw 5,500 asylum seekers cross through their northern border with Russia via Storskog during this period, but this loophole was closed in January 2016, when the station stopped operations entirely. Numbers at the Finnish border continued to increase, and so the current finance minister and then-interior minister Petteri Orpo began negotiations with the Russian authorities.

Finnish President Sauli Niinistö also brought up the issue with Russian president Vladimir Putin. Finland and Russia eventually reached an agreement to temporarily close the Raja-Jooseppi and Salla border crossings to third country nationals. Only Finnish, Russian and Belarusian citizens were allowed to use the crossings for a period of six months, starting in March 2016. By June, the situation was over.

Fickle mobile phone service customers see savings

And the newspaper Lapin Kansa carries an article on how every fifth Finnish resident switches their mobile phone subscriptions annually. The paper says that price is not the only factor in people's eagerness to change, as things like coverage, speed and services are also seen as important.

Representatives from the 'big three' telecom operators in Finland, Elisa, Telia and DNA, say that the Finnish market is very competitive, with each following the offers of the others carefully. If a customer threatens to leave, the company is usually prepared to offer a better fee or service to entice them to stay.

"We've noticed a trend that many customers who are willing to switch are getting better subscriptions. This is a pity, from the point of view of loyal consumers," Satu Toepfer, group manager at the Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority, tells the paper.

Deals featuring fixed-term lower prices have become an integral marketing ploy in Finland, so much so that operators are not allowed to advertise their post-discount prices as their normal price. In general, prices for mobile phone services have been rising in Finland as connection speeds and data amounts have grown.

At the end of 2018, LK reports that there were some 6.9 million mobile service subscriptions in use in Finland, 2.6 million of which were registered to businesses. Three-quarters of these subscriptions provided unlimited data transfer services at a monthly fee. Elisa commanded 37 percent of subscriptions, Telia 34 percent, and DNA 28 percent. The rest of the competition only accounted for one percent of the market.

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