Finland’s largest newspaper welcomed President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin to Helsinki Monday by displaying hundreds of billboards reminding them about their “turbulent relationships” with the media.
Over the weekend, Helsingin Sanomat posted 300 individual billboards along the route that both Trump and Putin will take from the airport to their diplomatic summit in the Finland’s capital city. The messages, which are printed in both Russian and English, feature real headlines published between 2000 and 2018. “Russian reporter who criticized Putin gains asylum in Britain,” reads one. “Trump continues to ban reporters” another reads.
Billboard campaign by Finland’s number newspaper Helsingin Sanomat in Helsinki
— ☇RiotWomenn☇ (@riotwomennn) July 15, 2018
“This is a statement on behalf of critical and high quality journalism,” Helsingin’s Editor-in-Chief Kaius Niemi said in a statement. “As we welcome the presidents to the summit in Finland, we want to remind them of the importance of free press. The media shouldn’t be the lap dog of any president or regime.”
Trump has had a turbulent few days with reporters. On Sunday, he went on yet another Twitter rant, labeling the news media as “the enemy of the people,” a phrase he previously used during a campaign rally in Montana earlier in July. During that rally, the president also labeled the media “really bad people.”
During his trip to the U.K. last week, Trump also refused to take a question from CNN during a press conference, calling the network “fake news,” a favorite phrase the president often uses to disparage media he doesn’t like.
— Juhku (@TheJuhku) July 16, 2018
Putin’s record on press freedom is much less blustery then Trump’s but much more brutal. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, there have been 42 journalists killed in Russia from 2000 to 2018, and the nation was ranked 148 out of 180 in Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index.
A large number of those have fallen or slipped to their deaths in suspicious circumstances, only to have the death quickly labeled as an accident or suicide. One well-known example was Mikhail Lesin, a former Russian media czar with close ties to Putin, who was found dead in a Washington, D.C. hotel in November 2015. A year-long investigation announced in October 2016 that Lesin’s death was likely an “accident” brought on by heavy drinking. However, according to multiple law-enforcement sources who spoke to Buzzfeed News, Lesin’s death was more than likely an assassination.