Northern Light

Censorship in Finland

The documentary Bloody Cartoons – the first in depth presentation on TV of what happened during the cartoon crisis in January and February 2006 – are scheduled to be shown on BBC world, October 20th., and on Al-Arabiya November 11th. Check out screening times for selected countries here. It’s going to be very interesting to watch if BBC and Al-Arabiya will show identical versions of the documentary.

Meanwhile Finnish TV was planning to cut (read: censor) Bloody Cartoons from the Why Democracy? Project that consists of 10 documentaries. The movies are being shown worldwide to a potential audience of more than 300 million people. 40 public broadcasters from six continents are involved.

Stateowned public broadcaster YLE had scheduled all the documentaries for screening except Bloody Cartoons, and had no intentions of giving the public a chance to judge for themselves about what happenend during the cartoon crisis. They didn’t think the documentary paid sufficient attention to Muslims’ hurted religious sensibilities. Ilkka Saari, chairman of Finnish TV2 explained the decision to cancel Bloody Cartoons to Helsingin Sanomag, Finland’s largest newspaper:

”We only have one spot for documentaries in our programming, and the producer Likka Vehkalahti decided that a certain number of documentaries was to be shown, and the decision was that this one would not be among them.”

Added producer Likka Vehkalahti:
”Probably other countries won’t show the documentary either. It’s not done in the best way and it is not a master piece.”

”I think the documentary was supposed to give us an understanding of the fact that we don’t get how sacred and untouchable religion appears to some people.”

Later he said to Jyllands-Posten:
”We thought that Karsten Kjaer’s Bloody Cartoons was the least interesting of the 10. We considered the issue a little outdated, and it never was as important for us as for the Danes.”

Incredible. Outdated! Every day the world is confronted with new ”cartoon crises”, be it in Sweden, Bangladesh, Morocco or Algier.

And let’s not forget what happened in Finland during the Danish cartoon crisis. Finland’s prime minister Matti Vanhanen apologized to all Muslims around the world (as if each and everyone of them had been offended) because the cartoons had been shown on a Finnish website, and foreign minister Erkki Tuomioja wrote a letter to several Arab publications expressing his satisfaction that not a single Finnish newspaper had published the cartoons.

”It’s unwise and deplorable to offend anyone’s religious feelings,” he explained.

A few weeks later Jussi Vilkuna, editor of the magazine Kaltio, was fired after he had expressed his solidarity with Denmark and supported the right to free speech, and cartoonist Villa Ranta lost a deal with with a municipality. His ”crime”: He made a cartoon for Kaltio depicting the Finnish prime minister, the foreign minister and the president burning the Danish flag.

In light of this despicable behavior of the government one might have expected that the Finns more than any other country would be interested in screening the documentary as part of the Why Democracy? project. In fact, the Finns really wanted to see the documentary, and when the news broke that state television wanted to censor Bloody Cartoons, Helsingin Sanomag was flooded with mails from angry Finns criticising state tv: During the Cold War you went out of your way not to offend Moscow, now you are willing to sell out in order not to offend Mecca.

Finally, Finnish state tv had to yield to public pressure, and the documentary is scheduled for screening Tuesday October 16, 11 PM local time.

Congratulations to the Finns, and shame on Finnish state TV that behaved cowardly following the disastrous line of the government.