Hate speech is a growing problem in Finland, official statistics show.
According to the latest hate crime report published by the Police University College on 7 October, ethnic agitation has tripled in crime statistics. The study shows that in 2019, the police received a 105 reports of agitation against a group of people, compared to 34 the previous year.
Police says when looking at all hate crimes by event situation, the number of verbal insults, threats and harassment cases increased compared to 2018. "Of these, the number of incitement to hatred -crimes tripled," the report emphasizes.
“Constructive criticism is always welcome and the police do not restrict free speech. However, freedom of speech comes with responsibility. The police intervenes actively when the threshold for punishable action is exceeded,” says National Police Commissioner Seppo Kolehmainen.
Total hate crimes decreased
However, the study shows the total number of complaints of hate crimes decreased by 1% in 2019. In this category of hate crimes are included, for example, hate speech, assaults or crimes against people motivated by their ethnic or national origin, religion or beliefs, sexual orientation, transgender identity or appearance, or disability.
In the target year, 899 reports of offences on suspected hate crime were filed. The majority of the cases (72.3%) were incidents based on ethnic or national origin. Cases motivated by the victim’s religious background constituted 14,8% of the incidents. Sexual orientation was the motive in 5,7% of the cases and in 4,9% it was disability.
21 suspected hate crimes (2,3 %) were identified as being based on the victim’s transgender identity or appearance.
The total number of suspected hate crimes filed by the police was 650. In the majority of the cases, prejudice or hostility was directed towards a member of an ethnic or national minority by a member of the majority population. The most common suspected crimes were assaults.
The most common scenes of the suspected crimes based on ethnic or national origin were public outdoor locations such as roads or city market squares. In 63% of the cases, the victims of the crimes based on ethnic or national origin were males and in 37% of the cases, victims were females. The most common crime directed against men was assault, while for women it was defamation.
Foreigners living in Finland
In relation to the number of people with foreign citizenship living in Finland, those holding a citizenship of Somalia experienced the highest frequency of crimes motived by ethnic or national origin in 2019. From all the reports of offences based on ethnic or national origin, 9% of offences were against a member of a Roma minority. Among these, the most common suspected crime was defamation.
Suspected hate crimes filed by the police in 2019 based upon religion or belief decreased by 14% from the previous year. The most common targets in these cases were Muslims. About fourth of the suspected crimes consist in illegal threats. Most common location of the suspected crimes based on religion or belief was the Internet.
The number of hate crimes motivated by the victim’s real or perceived sexual orientation, transgender identity or appearance, is 1% lower than in the previous year. Defamation was again the most commonly reported crime. In nearly half of the cases, the suspect was an acquaintance to the victim.
In the target year, 44 reports of offences on hate crimes based on the victim’s disability were identified, that is 16% less than in previous year. In little less than half of the cases the crime was defamation. The suspect was familiar to the victim in 42% of the cases.