The Finnish mainstream media has a poor reputation in the eyes of racialized Finns for spreading and labeling them. Yle did it again on its 8:30 pm news, where it led with a picture of a white youth giving the finger, followed by no sources except for “the police believes” that street gang criminal activity has taken a turn for the worst.
Then the reporter gives her verdict, sourcing her opinions to the police without mentioning statistical information, never mind an official’s name.
“Shootings in public places, bragging about criminals and showing it on social media indicate that street gang criminal activity has grown in Finland, according to the police.”
Who are these youth gang members anyway?
Surprise, surprise: “Youth gangs are different from motorcycle gangs,” the reporter states, “since they listen to rap music, they are mainly men of foreign background and exert influence in the neighborhoods they live.”
This type of sensationalist reporting by Yle is irresponsible and poor journalism. It also creates a narrative that spreads fear and eventually leads to hysteria, as we saw in late 2018 and early 2019 when Oulu went off the wall accusing asylum seekers, as if they were an epidemic, of assaulting minors sexually.
The media wasn’t the only one spreading the hysteria in Oulu. The police and politicians were also fueling it.
We are, unfortunately, seeing a bit of what happened two years ago in Oulu today, with stories about youth gangs emerging in the media.
Back then, the actions of the media, police, and politicians continue as stains on these institutions.
While I am not downplaying youth gang violence, I also believe it is irresponsible to turn such a topic into a heated one, even if it isn’t.
Why aren’t critical reporters asking why youth gang violence in Finland is an issue today? Could it be because of the parliamentary elections of April and the success of the Sweden Democrats in that country’s election, which highlighted street gang violence?
Markku Heinikari, head of the police criminal unit, has appeared on some talk shows about youth crime. Most recently, he was a guest in Yle’s A-studio.
Heinikari mentioned that “almost all street gang members are either first- or second-generation immigrants.”
In an email, I asked Heinikari to substantiate his claim. “Almost all” is a lot.
“This is based on police observations of the main people involved in the phenomenon. As I said before, it is not possible to give exact figures. The intention is neither to incite nor to stigmatize; [but] the immigration background [of the youth gang members] seems to be a key unifying factor for the main individuals associated with the gangs in question.”
So we have no exact figures but only observations by the police.
In Finland, “a person of migrant background” is anyone whose both parents were born abroad. If one of the parents is Finnish, then the child is theoretically Finnish.
Let’s hope that Yle does a better and fairer job when it reports about racialized youth communities.