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FREE! Magazine censored
by Antonio Diaz
2007-04-10 10:03:53
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I was walking around Helsinki, enjoying the sunny holiday day, when I stopped by the Tourist Information Office in Esplanadi to check if it was needed to refill the stand where we left copies of last FREE! magazine some days ago. I was surprised to see no copies left, so I asked the girls working there.

Should it be censored? One told me that the person responsible for the office did not like the cover of the last issue, considering it “too provocative” and that the stand and the copies are hidden in a store room, but if somebody wants and asks for a copy they can provide it to the customers. To sum up, we could say that the third issue has been censored from the public.

The theme of the cover is about the sex industry in Finland, and it is made by an English artist and collaborator, Robin Ellis. There you can see an illustration that shows some people in the sauna wearing strange masks, half-naked. The main title of our cover is “Sex in the land of sauna”, referring to sex industry in Finland, which is quite different from “Sex in the sauna”, as the girl on the desk of the information office told me that her chief read on the cover. I suppose that this responsible person, Ms. Nina Lager, did not even make the effort to open the pages and see what the article was about.

In our cover story, we give detailed and accurate information about the sex and porn business in Finland, and we also include interviews with porn actors that explain a bit more about their lives in general, and with the vice-president of the association of sex workers in Finland. I suppose that Ms. Lager neither paid attention to the rest of the contents in our publication, where you can find articles that go from Opera to History.

Of course, the people at the office have the right make censorship of a publication that they do not like, the same way that I have my right to complain about it. Last year, all citizens of Helsinki saw a campaign with ads on every tram stop by the magazine “Me Naiset” where a woman, dressed like a pirate, appeared showing one breast. Just one month ago, in another of the most popular freely distributed Finnish newspaper, we could read in a big quote how a Finnish legendary porn actress described the taste of sperm.

I have attended all kinds of exhibitions in museums, open to all kind of public and children, where you could see photographed scenes that go from a penis ejaculating to a piece of shit inside a toilet. So I keep wondering, what is the problem with our magazine, in which all the topics are treated with an exquisite respect towards all kind of audiences.

We promote equality in Finland publishing something new and fresh aimed at all kinds of people, no matter their religion or background. We consider that everybody likes culture, and that we are giving information in English language that was impossible to find before in Finland. But in our short existence of almost four months, we have been systematically ignored by all the institutions here.

The public administration has not been eager to open their ears for a publication that would be so fruitful with which to collaborate and could have so many potential readers that would help to build a real feeling of “belonging” to Finland for the foreign citizens, instead of being just outsiders.

Our readers love the contents, and they continuously encourage us with the nice feedback, but the official institutions just look at another side when we talk about co-operation. It is funny when I read that they want to create a more multi-cultural and international Helsinki to compete with the other Scandinavian capitals, when a new publication in English about culture is totally denied by the own Finnish institutions.

Maybe what it is acceptable here is only to publish complaints about the quality of life of the immigrants or pictures of the trendy people drunk at bars during the parties of the weekend. I hope not, and I hope that people still realize how much potential our publication can have to make this country more open and better culturally. Meanwhile, our magazines continue to be hidden and censored in the backroom of the Tourist Office, in a supposedly “freedom loving country” as Finland advertises itself. I think that is very sad.

Antonio Díaz is the co-editor of FREE! Magazine

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un tocayo2007-04-10 13:57:00
I am agree with you that the whole situation is pretty sad. I don't know what was a reason (if any is reasonable) to censor the Free! magazine, It might be the words "Free, Sex and Sauna" in the cover page gave too many ideas to an old-fashioned mind. Unfortunately I have seen lot of attitudes like this one in Finland, more proper of a conservative right ideology than a social democratic country proud of respecting fundamental rights of the people. I am concern about the dificulties what you have experience with your magazine and I will demand not just having the FREE magazine in Helsinki Center but also at the Airport!

Alan2007-04-10 14:41:44
This is very unfair, I have seen your magazine and I really like it. Good work!

alexandra pereira2007-04-10 18:43:18
I think you are right in many ways, and FREE! actually contributes to foreigners' integration and information (one of the few cultural publications in english), the graphism is nice, the articles cared and quite interesting.
You know the nature of political powers: perhaps the lady responsible for the tourist office was afraid that her boss would be visually shocked or something. puritan thinking...

jari2007-04-10 21:24:41
Welcome to Suomi. Nice magazine

Rinso2007-04-10 21:40:42
As I live far away in the countryside, I'm not aware of the situation in Helsinki. (and therefore cannot judge your magazine) I find it however a little strange that this can happen in a metropole. On the other hand I can see also that this cover is a little provocative and I can understand that conservative minded people don't want to promote it.

Hank W.2007-04-10 22:11:36
Yes, well, that MeNaiset thing was actually a breast cancer awareness advertisement.

About the sauna thing... hmmm... lets put it this way. The sauna has nothing to do with sex - its a bit like desecrating a church. Some Finns lack the humor there. See now if you go to some place advertising "sauna" in foreign countries, it is some gay massage thing. So at home its like taking a crap on your doorstep, wiping on the newspaper and then ringing the doorbell and complaining you got ink stains.

Loved the articles BTW.

alex p.2007-04-10 23:26:10
I think it's cool if one can have the freedom to publish a cover like this one. It is appealing, stimulates curiosity in intelligent and suomi culture-acquainted minds and it's provocative in a healthy manner. Precisely because sauna has nothing to do with sex for the finns (though we should notice they are the only ones for whom sauna "has nothing to do" with sex... and even if for many of them everything else but sauna has to do with sex...), precisely because of that and the cultural contrast between the sauna and sex topics, one is intrigued and driven to look inside the magazine. On the other hand, it is very clearly an artwork and not a pornographic picture. Churches are desecrated in media all the time - it's sauna's turn! :)

Hank W.2007-04-11 09:21:50
Any foreign city you pine for a sauna, and everyplace you go to is some gay massage parlor. Or then carpetted with "no water on the stove" sign, sometimes even with no stones.

Call it something else, how about a "banja" or "bastu" - nice round word inviting for anal sex. Don't call it Finnish and don't call it a sauna.

Rob2007-04-11 13:14:50
I must admit, I would not consider that particular cover "Tourist Office" material either. R-Kioski, sure, Suomen Kirjakauppa, next to Jone Nikulasta's Ovi magazine, no problem, even maybe a public library or a church, as it addresses a social problem, but I wouldn't expect to see it at a tourist office.

Do you cry "censorship" because they don't show documentaries about human trafficking and the sex trade during Pikku Kakkonen?

alex p.2007-04-11 19:16:09
Dear Hank W., you are very wrong (or maybe gay sauna obsessed?), I've been in saunas out of Finland and they were not about gay massage (i'm not gay and i wasn't there for a massage either...). They were very nice. Actually, Finland exports its saunas for most countries in the world.

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