Washington Post backs Finnish journalist in awards row

The support from the newspaper comes after Jessikka Aro had her International Women of Courage award rescinded.

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File picture of journalist Jessikka Aro / Credit: Jessikka Aro Twitter

The Washington Post newspaper has backed Finnish journalist Jessikka Aro in a dispute about an award.

Aro was supposed to be given an International Women of Courage award in the USA last week, presented by US First Lady Melania Trump.

However, the award was rescinded after American officials uncovered social media posts critical of American President Donald Trump.

Aro was one of the central organisers of a demonstration during the Putin-Trump Summit in July 2018 which brought several thousand people to Helsinki’s streets ostensibly protesting against the two world leaders – even though the event itself wasn’t billed as an anti-Trump or anti-Putin march per se.

Now, the Washington Post editorial says the decision to take back the award “is in keeping with a president who has set the tone of prizing loyalty and personal sycophancy over wisdom and vision”.

The editorial continues “Ms. Aro deserved the award. She should hold her head high for courage, unlike those who denied her the honor”.

Aro’s journalism exposed Russian trolls

Jessikka Aro became a household name in Finland for her 2015 work uncovering Russian internet trolls, and the so-called ‘troll factory’ where they work in St. Petersburg. She shone a light on official Russian disinformation campaigns, which work to spread fake news on social media.

For her journalism work, and for exposing herself to continuous harassments and threats, Aro received Bonnier’s Award for Journalism in 2016.

The International Women of Courage Award came with a trip to the USA, and a tour around the country in recognition of Aro’s journalism work. However a State Department spokesperson said there had been a “regrettable error” and that Aro had been “incorrectly notified” due to a “lack of coordination in communications with candidates and embassies”, in a story first reported by Foreign Policy magazine.