President Donald Trump received a chilly welcome on Monday from Finnish media in advance of his summit in Helsinki with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Greeting him upon his arrival in the country were 300 billboards carrying a a message of welcome — along with a blunt reminder: “Mr. President, Welcome to the land of free press.” The signs were written in black against a stark white background.
In #Helsinki, Helsingin Sanomat @hsfi running a press freedom campaign ahead of the US-Russia #HelsinkiSummit2018. The IFJ fully supports this timely campaign to point the little commitment of both leaders with media freedom! #HELSINKI2018 #PressFreedom (pic via @KaiusNiemi) pic.twitter.com/fG0skHhV8e
— IFJ (@IFJGlobal) July 16, 2018
The ad campaign was taken out by Helsingin Sanomat, one of the nations’s largest newspapers, and will appear on more than 300 billboards.
In a tweet, Sanomat’s editor-in-chief Kaius Niemi explained — in English — why his paper decided to run the campaign.
“As we welcome the presidents to the summit in Helsinki, we @hsfi want to remind them of the importance of free press,” he said. “300 billboards on the routes from the airport to the summit are filled with news headlines regarding presidents’ attitude towards the press freedom. #HELSINKI2018.”
As we welcome the presidents to the summit in Helsinki, we @hsfi want to remind them of the importance of free press. 300 billboards on the routes from the airport to the summit are filled with news headlines regarding presidents’ attitude towards the pressfreedom. #HELSINKI2018 pic.twitter.com/KmYJtLyeNE
— Kaius Niemi (@KaiusNiemi) July 15, 2018
Trump is a frequent critic of the U.S. media and routinely dismisses stories he doesn’t like as “fake news.” The U.S. president has also resuscitated a Stalinist charge, that the media is “the enemy of the people” in a Sunday tweet. The remark would not go unnoticed in a nation like Finland — which shares an 800-mile border with Russia and has historically had fraught relations with the country.
…over the years, I would return to criticism that it wasn’t good enough – that I should have gotten Saint Petersburg in addition! Much of our news media is indeed the enemy of the people and all the Dems…
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 15, 2018
Though they rarely make headlines, Finnish media is widely regarded as among the freest in the world. The country ranks fourth on the Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index. The same ranking puts the United States at 14 and Finland’s neighbor Russia at 148.