UJF: persecution of journalists must stop

The work of journalists is in the public domain and criticism directed at it goes with the job.

But deliberate harassment or efforts to silence individual journalists, as well as persecution campaigns directed against them, definitely do not go with the job. At worst they imperil not merely the work of particular journalists but freedom of expression overall.

In Finland and other western countries the use of requests for police investigations has become a standard way to harass journalists. Repeated requests of this nature, the purpose of which is to hamper journalists’ work, are also a burden on the police and judicial authorities.

Last week the news broke that Helsinki journalist Johanna Vehkoo was being sued by a member of Oulu City Council, Junes Lokka, for defamation. Vehkoo had described Lokka as a racist and nazi in a post on her own closed Facebook wall.

Earlier this autumn, Lokka was fined for inciting hatred against a minority group from 2013 – 2017. He has publicly harassed Vehkoo in a number of ways over the years. Anybody can see this simply by checking out his Youtube channels.

The UJF is calling on the authorities to ensure that people are treated equally under the law.

Last winter, the prosecutor general decided that racist posts on the wall of a closed police Facebook group would not warrant prosecution. The prosecutor general halted an investigation into the matter on the basis that the comments made in the closed group were not intended for public viewing. The police Facebook group in question had 2 800 members.

Vehkoo now faces prosecution for remarks published on her own closed Facebook wall, which can be viewed by a restricted group of people. Fewer than three hundred people could view the posting.