Pirita Näkkäläjärvi is former editor of YLE Sápmi. Photo: Vesa Toppari / Yle Sápmi

Pirita Näkkäläjärvi named Sámi of the Year

"There is systematic spreading of disinformation about the Sámi that threaten our freedom of speech", says the former editor of YLE Sápmi.
November 12, 2017

In Finland, the Sámi of the Year prize was given this weekend to Pirita Näkkäläjärvi. She is a clear voice for indigenous peoples rights in northern Scandinavia.

Originally from Inari near Finland’s border to Norway and Russia, Pirita Näkkäläjärvi was head of the Finnish broadcasters Sámi-language newsroom from 2012 to 2016. In that period, YLE Sápmi launched several efforts to strengthen Sámi languages in the region in radio, web and TV, including the Inari- and Skolt Sámi languages that just a few hundred people in the borderland still speak.

The Sámi of the Year prize is aimed at bringing indigenous culture and its movers and shakers to national attention, and at encouraging members of the Sámi community to cherish their language and culture.

Great honour

“It is a great honour to receive the title,” Pirita Näkkäläjärvi tells to the Barents Observer.

“I think The Sámi of the Year is a platform that the Sámi people grants to be used by one Sámi person, one year at a time, in order to civilise the majority population. I’m looking forward to the year ahead,” she explains. “It is a good way to connect with the majority population sof Finland.”

Näkkäläjärvi now lives and work in Helsinki after studying media and communications at the London School of Economics. Her master concerns the freedom of speech of the Sámi people in Finland.

Reasons to be concerned

She says there are still reasons to be concerned about the Sámi people’s ability to get their voices heard in the society.

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“Formally the Sámi people have freedom of speech as citizens of Finland, but in practice there are for example attempts to silence vocal Sámi people and there is systematic spreading of disinformation about the Sámi that threaten our freedom of speech,” Pirita argues.

“The government has done little to prevent these from happening in order to ensure that the Sámi have equal rights to freedom of speech in the Finnish society.”

There are some 75,000 Sámi in Finland, Norway, Sweden and Russia.

From the opening of the Skolt Sámi museum in Neiden where the culture of the Skolt Sámi living in Norway, Finland and Russia is highlighted. Photo: Atle Staalesen

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