Finnish media coverage, March 20-21 2001

Publish date: March 21, 2001

These excerpts from Finnish media were compiled and translated by EPPA, Finland.

Lipponen v/s Bellona:

Yleisradio (20.3.)
“Prime minister Lipponen has apologised over his use of the term terrorism for the environmental organisation Bellona.” Lipponen explained to Bellona leader Hauge that “I have checked this in my dictionary and noticed that I have mixed the words terrorism and activism”. Hauge was satisfied with the explanation and stated that this matter is settled. Lipponen and Hague shook hands in the press conference in Oslo. Lipponen stated that Bellona is important for Norway as well as for Finland. However, he pointed out that as long as it is possible to solve problems in an open society such as Finland, the laws should be respected.

The Norwegian police was prepared for possible demonstrations with riot-fences, but the event did not attract crowds.

Helsingin Sanomat (21.3.)
“Bellona and Lipponen settled their dispute.” Lipponen stated that he understands now better Bellona’s activities. He told that he consulted his dictionary and admitted that the term terrorist methods was too harsh. Lipponen explained that he did not mean to say that Bellona is a terrorist organisation.

Helsingin Sanomat contains a separate column with the title “Bellona has a warlike reputation but has achieved notable results”. “The Norwegian environmental organisation Bellona has through the past years established its position as an independent environmental specialist. Both authorities and media make good use of their estimations.”

The article includes a paragraph concerning Bellona’s history and name, stating that “at the beginning the activities were concretely warlike. Hauge and his groups wore orange colour overalls and chained themselves on cranes and gates. The organisation is very ambitious as their goal is to solve all the environmental problems in the world.” The article also has a paragraph about Bellona’s funding and personnel, stating that at the beginning the funding was based on donations and voluntary contributions, but at present companies provide Bellona with a remarkable amount of sponsorship. Bellona gives these companies environmental training as exchange. Also the Norwegian Ministry for Foreign Affairs supports the organisation financially, and their turnover is now over 24 million Norwegian crooner.

Finally the article mentions that Bellona’s absolute breakthrough has been environmental work in Northern Russia. The organisation was centre of great attention because of its report based of the Russian ex-navy officer Aleksandr Nikitin’s information.

Kaleva (20.3.), column written by Markku Heikkilä
Heikkilä wrote that “Relations between Finland and Norway have been somehow complicated over the past decades, as if they ware based on misunderstandings on both side”. He refers to the situation after war and to the development of EU. “Now it looks like Finland and its leaders are trying their hardest to make Finland look strange in the eyes of its neighbour.”

Heikkilä continues “Lipponen called Bellona terrorists and used that term in two contexts. This is, to put it mildly, quite strong language.” “One can only wonder what kind of definition Lipponen uses as a basis for his statement”. “On Monday Lipponen was only starting his visit, and if was not known how he will explain his words. In any case the damage is already done, due to the fact that the first impression is often crucial”.

Heikkilä refers to allegations concerning World Watch Institute and concludes “The prime minister surely can’t believe that disagreeing is tantamount to terrorism.”

Nelonen, internet news (20.3.)
“Lipponen apologised.” An article repeating the facts including Lipponen consulting his dictionary. Nelonen interviewed some anonymous Greenpeace members and one of them stated “If Bellona is classified as a terrorist organisation, the world has not a lot to worry about”. One other Greenpeace activist said that “It was surprising that the prime minister gave such a harsh statement”.

Some Finnish MPs, members of Attac organisation, gathered together in the Parliament lobby. Even some Lipponen’s party colleagues hoped that Lipponen would consult his dictionary more often from now on. They also talked about Lipponen’s motives and according to the most popular theory, the prime minister wanted to put pressure on the Greens now as the vote concerning nuclear power is approaching. Attac members pointed out however, that discussion about civil disobedience’s limits is welcome.

Ilta-Sanomat (21.3.)
“The environmental activists beat Paavo Lipponen.” Ilta-Sanomat summarises the events and states that “Bellona and its chairman Frederic Hauge succeeded in something the Finnish opposition politicians normally only dream on. They made Lipponen regret his statements and apology”.

Ilta-Sanomat interviewed Hauge: “I was not happy with the situation, and managed to arrange a meeting in our Parliament. I believe Lipponen realised the problems his statement could have caused concerning our work in Russia”. The article mentions that according to Hauge, the Russian security service FSB has been vilifying Bellona over a long period of time. Bellona is only recovering from the burden of Aleksandr Nikitin’s case. However, according to the article, Hauge mentions proudly that the Russian court has ordered Russian nuclear energy minister Jevgeni Adamov to pay Bellona 10 000 rubbles for defamation. Hauge had also stated that Bellona would like to co-operate with Finns in the future and that they find projects related to environmental technology especially interesting. According to Hauge, the Finnish authorities have also admitted that Bellona was right concerning the attack against a fish-breeding plant in 1995.

Ilta-Sanomat commented on reactions in the Finnish Parliament. The opposition leader Anneli Jäätteenmäki, after having been accused by Lipponen of populism last week, asked Parliament if this was the kind of populism that was being referred to. She pointed out that if Bellona’s attack in 1995 was illegal, it should have been dealt with at that time. MP Susanna Rahkonen, chairman of the recently founded Attac organisation, is of the opinion that Lipponen did have a point in his statement although the use of word “terrorism” and the timing were obviously inappropriate. According to her, it is good that there is a discussion concerning civil organisation’s working methods. ” If the action gets harder for media purposes, we are not on the right path”. Both Rahkonen and Jäätteenmäki emphasised that civil organisations must respect the national laws.

Iltalehti (21.3.)
“Lipponen softened his statement concerning Bellona”. A short article according to which Lipponen had mitigated his statement by Monday evening and that this was interpreted as an apology in the Norwegian press. On Tuesday Lipponen admitted that that the use of word terrorism was too much.