The Prime Minister of Finland, Sanna Marin, has defended the role of a free and independent media in the country, after several members of parliament from her own party were accused of harassing a journalist online. The journalist, Johanna Vehkoo, had written a critical article about the Finns Party, a populist and anti-immigration party that is the main opposition in the parliament. She claimed that the party had ties to far-right groups and that some of its MPs had spread misinformation and conspiracy theories.
Vehkoo’s article sparked a backlash from some Finns Party supporters, who flooded her social media accounts with abusive and threatening messages. Some of the messages came from verified accounts of Finns Party MPs, who called her a liar, a traitor, and a “whore of the mainstream media”. Vehkoo reported the harassment to the police and filed a complaint with the parliamentary ombudsman.
In a statement, Marin said that she was “deeply concerned” by the attacks on Vehkoo and that she supported her right to work as a journalist without fear or intimidation. She said that Finland was ranked as one of the best countries in the world for press freedom and that this was something to be proud of and to protect. She also said that politicians had a responsibility to respect the media and to refrain from spreading hate speech or inciting violence.
“The media is not the enemy of the people, but an essential part of our democracy. A free and independent media is a guarantee that different voices and perspectives are heard and that the public can form their own opinions based on facts and evidence. We need a media that can hold those in power accountable and that can expose wrongdoing and corruption. We also need a media that can challenge our own views and prejudices and that can foster dialogue and understanding,” Marin said.
She added that she hoped that the incident would not discourage journalists from doing their work or from reporting on sensitive or controversial issues. She said that she valued the diversity and professionalism of the Finnish media and that she would continue to support its freedom and independence.