News / 14.04.2015

Media watchdog to investigate complaints about Estonia article

Helsingin Sanomat supplement asked readers to nominate “best” nicknames for Estonians. 

The Council for Mass Media in Finland is looking into complaints following an article published in Helsingin Sanomat’s monthly magazine asking readers to vote for their favourite pet names and derogatory terms for Estonians.

The CMM’s chairperson, Risto Uimonen, has decided that the Council will examine the complaints received about the article, which was titled “How would we call Estonians?” The piece was published in the April edition of Helsinki Sanomat’s monthly magazine and received 16 complaints.

The March issue of the magazine had asked readers for suggestions for pet names and derogatory terms for Estonians. The 30 nicknames subsequently voted for were published in the April issue of the magazine and on the Helsinki Sanomat website.

Readers could vote online for the “best” terms for Estonians, until Helsingin Sanomat removed the survey from its website after receiving negative feedback.

The newspaper published a statement saying that the idea of the poll had been conceived in a “friendly spirit” and that “good natured teasing between friends is permitted”. The paper admitted that some of the epithets people sent in were in “bad taste” and that the poll had gone against its original intention, which is why it removed it from the website. 

According to the Council for Mass Media, all the complaints on the matter it will investigate relate to section 26 of the Guidelines for Journalists. This states: “The human dignity of every individual must be respected. The ethnic origin, nationality, sex, sexual orientation, convictions or other similar personal characteristics may not be presented in an inappropriate or disparaging manner.”

Helsingin Sanomat will respond to the complaints, and the Council for Mass Media will investigate the matter in early autumn.

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