Since its founding in 2014, the anti-migrant online website MV-lehti has been accused of racism, slander, conspiracy theories, copyright infringement and privacy violations. Yle’s Perjantai (Friday) Finnish-language documentary programme caught up with the elusive founder of the website to ask him a few questions.
Ilja Janitskin says his father was from Leningrad. His father left his home in Russia when he was in his twenties, after he fell in love with a Finnish woman. They settled in the municipality of Lieksa, on the eastern border, where young Ilja was born and grew up.
“I consider myself 100% Finnish. I’ve read what some people have written, that I'm Russian and an immigrant myself. But that's not the case,” he says in the Yle interview.
Janitskin first made waves in Finland in the early 2000s when he and Jussi Ahde launched a magazine, Absolut, designed for young trendsetters. Just one issue was eventually released, after which Janitskin moved to Miami, Florida, for two years. After being unable to find work upon his return to Finland, he joined the local Bandidos Motorcycle Club, an organised crime syndicate with a worldwide membership.
“Some people still write that I am a big criminal because I used to belong to the club, but all of the assault charges that have been levied against me are the result of me stepping in to defend a woman who was being attacked. I might have responded a little roughly,” he says.
Janitskin then moved to Málaga, Spain and founded a sales company. He now lives in Barcelona. Yle’s interview with Janitskin is the first he has given since he founded the MV website in 2014. He is often contacted to comment on the inflammatory content published on his site, but he is notorious for being “not available for comment”. He says the website’s beginnings were quite inauspicious.
“I wrote it offhand on Sundays. It was full of typos,” he says.
MV-lehti has gained a growing readership in Finland since the migrant crisis began in Europe and news of crimes committed by asylum seekers in Finland flamed many people's xenophobic tendencies.
"Mainstream media is responsible"
Police are investigating whether MV-lehti may be guilty of offences such as slander, and the website regularly permits the publication of comments that are racist. It has also been known to publish pictures of crime suspects and convicted criminals, a violation of Finland’s privacy laws. However as the site is based abroad and is not registered as a Finnish media outlet, domestic legislation may not cover it.
All of website’s content is published without attribution, so none of the names of the contributors are known, only Janitskin.
“I hold Finland’s mainstream media responsible for many events that have taken place in Finland, sex crimes for one example,” he says.
Nine political youth organisations in Finland banded together in January to urge advertisers to boycott financial support for the website in the form of advertisements. They stressed that MV-lehti and other similar sites published false news and incited hatred.
“I’m not forcing anyone to read my thoughts, or the thoughts and writings of my readers," he says. "Why are some people saying that these kinds of things can’t be written? There’s no need to visit the website. Stay on your own web pages. Wouldn’t that be for the best?”