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‘Mr. President, Welcome to the Land of Free Press:’ Helsinki Newspaper Trolls Trump and Putin Before Their Meeting

As Presidents Trump and Putin arrived in Helsinki, Finland for their meeting Monday, they were greeted with a less-than warm welcome by the country’s largest newspaper.

Kaius Niemi, the editor-in-chief of Helsingin Sanomat, wrote on Twitter that his publication wanted to remind the two leaders “of the importance of free press.” To do so, the newspaper financed “300 billboards on the routes from the airport to the summit” that depict headlines regarding the presidents’ “attitude toward press freedom.”

According to a subsequent press release Niemi posted on twitter, the billboards are of headlines from 2000 to 2018, written in both English and Russian. Niemi called it a “statement on behalf of critical and high quality journalism,” and a reminder of the importance of a free press.

“The media shouldn’t be the lap dog of any president or regime,” he continued. The newspaper therefore hoped to use the billboards to show support for journalists who “have to fight in ever toughening circumstances” and highlight the importance of free press as “a cornerstone of all democratic civil societies.”

The release further brought attention to current threats to press freedom, noting that whereas Finland appears fourth in the Reporters Without Border World Press Freedom Index, the U.S. and Russia place 45th and 148th out of 180, respectively.

Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat placed billboards around Helsinki highlighting Trump’s poor free press record. Kristian Autio—Helsingin Sanomat
Helsingin Sanomat / Kristian Autio

Some of the billboards appear to troll Trump, saying, “Mr. President, welcome to the land of free press.” Others take a more serious note, with headlines such as “Media-critiquing Trump has changed the meaning of fake news,” or “Trump furious over leaks and blames media for complicating meeting with Putin.”

The last one is particularly relevant, as Trump tweeted ahead of the Helsinki summit on Sunday that “much of our news media is indeed the enemy of the people.”