Halonen on NATO and the media

Yesterday saw a Presidential Forum on foreign policy and security policy, a partly televised discussion event organized by President Tarja Halonen (Social Democratic Party) and attended by Foreign Minister Ilkka Kanerva (National Coalition Party) in addition to various foreign policy worthies. Halonen took the opportunity to reiterate her oft-stated position that no decision on joining NATO has been made.

Halonen also dabbled in media criticism (fi). "I would really hope that someone would make a report on how the Finnish media have in comparison to other media approached for example questions like Iraq or this bronze soldier." She said that the media "campaign" by looking for differences of opinion in foreign policy decision making. "Whenever several people are involved, it's possible that they disagree slightly. It shouldn't be prevented; it's called democracy."

I have to take issue with Halonen's critique. The most important thing may well be that the government and the president can arrive at a common decision, but surely disagreement during the decision making process is precisely the sort of thing the media should report to the best of their ability. Also, while I believe that the statements made by Halonen, Kanerva, and Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen (Centre Party) re the Estonian statue controversy can be combined to form a coherent whole, they did approach the issue from different points of view. Raising questions about how their comments should be interpreted is well within the media's purview.

Finally, asking for a comparison to foreign media speaks of a thin skin, I'm afraid. The Finnish media are in my opinion quite reserved in their speculation and respectful of official figures like Halonen compared to the foreign (English language) press I follow.

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