European Integration

Disinformation, as if Finland deprives children of Russian families

18 November, 2016

On November 2, pro-kremlin Russian information agency Pravda.ru published disinformation as if Finnish authorities deprived two daughters from Russian citizen Svetlana Rots. The reason was not to let mother take the girls out of Finland to Russia. The article also includes assessments of Russian human rights activists claiming that these facts are the manifestation of Russophobia. According to them, campaign against Russian families has already begun not only in Finland, but also in the Europe.

Analogous accusations were included in an interview entitled "Russian children – property of Finland” published by Pravda.ru on February 7, 2014. Notorious Finnish pro-Russian propagandist Johan Backman claimed in an interview with the editor of Pravda.ru, that he had the recommendation of the Ministry of Health of Finland stating as Russian parents are very dangerous for their children. Johan Backman is the official representative of Russian Institute for Strategic Studies (RISS) in Scandinavian countries. The institute is founded by the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin and advocates pro-Kremlin policies and interests in Russia as well as abroad. Johan Backman actively participated in the online campaign against Finnish journalist Jessica Aro in 2014. Jessica Aro focused on revealing Russian propaganda.

Finnish government denied false accusations on September 21, 2016. According to the press release of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health of Finland, Russian mass media periodically discuss how measures for the protection of children are applied in Finland. Finland is a law-governed state where authorities act on the basis of the applicable legislation, not their arbitrary decisions. According to the Ministry, substitute guardianship of a child or placement of a child for maintenance and raising outside the parental home cannot be appointed according to citizenship or without a respective ground. The press release also notes that Finnish legislation provides that personal data of clients of social security and public health services must be kept confidential. That is why officers of guardianship bodies may not comment publicly on any particular cases related to the protection of children.

The practice of Finnish Government of protecting children rights was negatively represented by the Head of Georgian Demographic Society XXI, Zviad Tomaradze in his interview with "Postalioni” on February 18, 2016. According to Tomaradze, since 2008 Finland adopted new law which enabled social worker to decide removing a child from a family without court decision – according to his personal opinions or anonymous calls.

Such reasoning is groundless as:

In Finland, violence for the purposes of raising children is prohibited. According to the basic principle of the Finnish legislation on the protection of children, milder measures are preferred when it comes to intervention in family affairs. I.e. the kind of aid is chosen for a child that allows him or her to stay at home with his or her family of origin. When a child or parents have issues related to mental health, alcohol or drug abuse or domestic violence, guardianship bodies are forced to take measures. A child may be immediately removed from a family if the home situation is a direct threat to the child’s health. Immediate removal of a child from a family and placement for maintenance and raising outside the parental home is the measure of last resort used only where it is impossible to ensure child’s safety and welfare by other methods. Herewith, if a person participating in the case objects, the respective decision cannot be made by municipal social security bodies and the case will be referred to the administrative court. If the problem which caused child’s removal from the family is resolved, the child can return to his or her family of origin.

Detailed information for immigrants on the system for the protection of children’s rights can be found on the website of the Central Union for Child Welfare of Finland.

Main message of Russian propaganda in Finland

Manipulating with topics related to children is a well – known practice of Russian propaganda in Finland. As the paper prepared by the Center for European Policy Analysis notes, Russia uses various message-box in different countries. In case of Finland, the propaganda of Kremlin media outlets accuse Finnish Government of child abduction which is related to the disputes arising from disputes over child custody when Finnish-Russian marriages break up.

Photo Manipulation

Article published by Pravda.ru included Photo Manipulation expressing little girl and the flag of Finland.

Photo was edited and combined these two separate photos:

Using photo manipulation by media outlets may serve several purposes: propaganda, exacerbation of phobias or negative attitudes existing in society, satirizing political of public figures, etc.

In this concrete case, the photo is directly connected with the content of the article and aims at establishing associative connection between Finnish government and child abuse. Besides Russian media, photo manipulation is also used in Georgian media.