Keiino-Fred lashes out at hate speech and death threats

by Line Alette Bjørneback and
Ingá Káre Márjá L. Utsi
Translated by: Diana Oakes, KEiiNO Fan Group Official

When a Facebook user wrote “shoot the Sami first, then the reindeer” it was the last straw for Fred Buljo. The comments section caught fire and the matter has been reported to the police.

NOT OKAY: Fred Buljo of Keiino says that it’s not OK to make death threats, even while hiding behind a keyboard. PHOTO: ARMAND NASIRI / PHOTO MONTAGE

Loga ášši sámegillii. (Read the article in Sámi).

Read the article in original (Norwegian).

“It stops here! Is that really within the realm of possibility to make statements about  killing the Sámi?”, writes artist Fred Buljo on his Facebook page.

He is one of many who have reacted strongly to this comment on a status about  reindeer grazing in a field in Lyngen, Norway.

HATE SPEECH: Over 60% of the population that has received hate comments have received this via Facebook, according to the Norwegian Media Authority’s 2022 survey on young people’s experiences with hate speech. PHOTO: SCREENSHOT

Fred Buljo from Keiino says that he reacted to the comment because he believes that society shouldn’t accept death threats and that such statements both help to create fear and also incite to hatred against the Sámi people.

– It is not the kind of society I want to live in, or for my children to grow up in.

– I believe that we should come to terms with the online violence that takes place on the various online media platforms, and that statements of this calibre must and should have consequences. Because the reach of the internet is potentially very large.

He hopes that the person in question understands the seriousness and apologises.

Sámi hate characterises the reindeer herding district

Berit Kristine Utsi is a leader of district 33 Ittunjárga, which has summer pasture in Lyngen. The comment was written in response to a Facebook post about reindeer that should have grazed on fields in this area.

She says that the online harassment is a consistent problem for the district. Much of the violence stems from conflicts between farmers and reindeer owners, as the reindeer can wander onto the farmers’ fields and graze.

For her, it is sad to read such comments.

Leader: Berit KRistine Utsi is the leader of Ittunjarga reindistrict,
Photo: Berit Kristine Utsi/Private photo

– It’s very sad to know that, in your local area, there are people who don’t like you and your job and are harassing you for it.

As a mother, Utsi thinks it’s extra difficult to know that such comments abound.

– My children are now at the age where they follow social media and see the abuse. When they were younger, they were more protected from it, but now they see daily that some people don’t like us and our way of life.

Reactions to threats to people

Utsi says that the district is also no stranger to people outside the reindeer herding community poaching reindeer, and that comments like this, that encourage it, are therefore affecting them even more.

– Even if the person who wrote the comment is not going to act on their threat, there are others who might. Although some may think it mostly a joke, it still influences people to think that it might be okay to shoot reindeer.

Utsi says that threats against people do not belong anywhere.

– It’s difficult to experience the fact that someone feels they can actually write such a serious thing. It’s not ‘done’ to encourage people to shoot others! We have reported the matter to the police.

The police in Troms county confirm that they have received a report on the comment and have opened a case.

NRK has been in contact with the person who wrote the comment on Facebook. The person says that they have received several reactions to the statement, and don’t wish to comment on the matter.

Encouragements to review

The Sámi Parliament councillor responsible for countering Sámi hate, Runar Myrnes Balto, says that it’s difficult to say how often Sámi hate happens online, but that they see that this unfortunately happens.

– It’s very traumatic for many Sámi to read such things, because it’s interpreted as a death threat against the entire population. It’s important that people who see something like this report it. This is the only way we can document and do something about the outrage that is happening.

RESPONSIBILITY: Sami Parliament Councilor Runar Myrnes Balto is responsible for respect for Sámi identity, truth and reconciliation.

Balto states that the Sámi Parliament, in collaboration with the Norwegian Police Directorate, is now working on a guide on how to report and they hope that it will be completed over the summer.

– Otherwise, I have a request for the government to get in the field. Now is a good time to launch a national action plan against Sámi hate.

What can you do if you experience harassment?

  • Tell someone you trust.
  • If there are serious threats or other serious harassment, you can contact the police. The police’s online patrol is tasked with trawling and helping people who experience harassment online.
  • If possible, document it! It’s helpful when you contact the police, charities or someone you trust.