The trial of journalist Johanna Vehkoo has more than a ring of absurdity about it, revealing that the prosecutor, police, law and for that matter Finnish society in general is unable to get to grips with the problem of hate speech or internet trolls.
Vehkoo, who has written extensively about fake news, hate speech and the problems they pose for journalism, has been accused of defaming a city councilor in the northern Finnish city of Oulu, Junes Lokka, by referring to him as a racist and nazi clown in a 2016 Facebook post.
Lokka, well known for his xenophobic sentiments and anti-immigration stance, has at times referred to himself as a nazi and racist, and published a photo of himself giving a nazi salute in front of the parliament building in Helsinki. He has previously been convicted and fined for inciting hatred against a minority group.
Vahkoo’s description of Lokka was on her private Facebook status, viewable by a closed group.
Which is why Vehkoo’s trial is viewed within the UJF and beyond as a crazy inversion of any reasonable handling by the authorities of hate speech and online trolling.
In this case, the system is being made a fool of for the sake of hounding a journalist to satisfy Lokka’s populist antics. He has anyway had Vehkoo in his sights for a while. Her Facebook post was in response to his attempts to harass her at a public event in Rovaniemi.
For the UJF, the case is part of a wider problem in Finland, where far-right extremists have on a number of occasions persecuted journalists. Threats to freedom of expression have also come on a few occasions from the high up in the state. In 2017, Finland lost it number one spot on the Reporters Without Borders’ Press Freedom Index and is now ranked fourth.
The court ruling in the case against Johanna Vehkoo is expected 12 April.
See also: UJF: persecution of journalists must stop (