As President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin prepare for their summit in Helsinki, one local media organization is preparing for their visit with a scathing public welcome. According to multiple reports, a Finland newspaper commissioned billboards aimed at Trump and Putin, dragging both world leaders for their relationships with press freedom.
"As we welcome the presidents to the summit in Helsinki, we @hsfi want to remind them of the importance of free press," Tweeted Kaius Niemi, editor-in-chief of Helsingin Sanomat. "300 billboards on the routes from the airport to the summit are filled with news headlines regarding presidents’ attitude towards the pressfreedom [sic]."
According to The Hill, the billboards appear in both Russian and English. They feature headlines published between 2000 and 2018 that pertain to each leader's relationship with the media. "Trump calls media the enemy of the people," reads one billboard shared in the press release. It is dated Feb. 18, 2017.
"This is a statement on behalf of critical and high quality journalism. As we welcome the presidents to the summit in Finland, we want to remind them of the importance of free press," Niemi said in a press release about the billboards. "The media shouldn't be the lap dog of any president or regime."
In a series of tweets on Sunday, Trump doubled down on his animosity toward much of the press. He also claimed that the summit will be negatively portrayed by the media regardless of how it plays out.
"Unfortunately, no matter how well I do at the Summit, if I was given the great city of Moscow as retribution for all the sins and evils committed by Russia over the years, I would return to criticism that it wasn't good enough — that I should have gotten Saint Petersburg in addition!" Trump tweeted. "Much of our news media is indeed the enemy of the people and all the Dems know how to do is resist and obstruct! This is why there is such hatred and dissension in our country — but at some point, it will heal!"
In its press release, the Finland newspaper compared press freedom in Russia and the United States to how it manifests in other countries around the world, describing their respective relationships as "problematic."
"The relations between both the Russian and United States presidents and the free press have been problematic," the statement read. "In Russia, the freedom of the press has become almost non-existent during the reign of Putin. In the Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index, Russia is ranked 148. The index consists of 180 countries."
However, the Finnish paper also criticized the United States for its placement in the Reporters Without Borders report, even though it is ranked much higher than Russia:
The United States is ranked 45th, considerably higher than Russia but still far from the top. President Trump is well known for his contemptuous statements and attitude toward the media. He has raised hatred towards critical media among his supporters with his remarks. Trump has called the free press "the enemy of the people" and "the opposition party", among other things.
According to the report, the United States was demoted two levels from the year prior. In its country summary, the report argues that the first year of Trump's presidency "fostered further decline in journalists’ right to report" and described "violent anti-press rhetoric from the highest level of the US government."
The billboards in Finland are just one of several highly-visible stunts that Trump has encountered since he embarked on his trip to Europe. He has also faced public protests, blimps, and an unexpected paraglider. People around the world are following his travels closely, and many have seized upon the opportunity to confront him while he is in the international limelight.