Finnbay on Sunday threatened to resort to legal action against the Finnish Ambassador in Russia.The publisher of Finnbay has yet to come forward to defend the English-language news outlet following its thrust into the eye of a media storm on Saturday. As a result, the identity of the publisher remains a mystery.

The news portal on its web-page makes no mention of its editor-in-chief despite a legal requirement to do so. In addition, the street address given on the contact page, Esplanadi 35, does not exist – nor is there any sign of Finnbay at the address Pohjoisesplanadi 35.

The phone number given on the page is similarly not in use, and e-mails sent to the addresses provided have yielded no replies.

On Monday, Onur Yalcintas, a spokesperson at Finnbay, did not respond to e-mails and phone calls by Helsingin Sanomat. Yalcintas is apparently a businessman of Turkish background and has been quoted as an economist in reports published by the provider of news about Finland.

Finnbay has been subjected to considerable public scrutiny after Hannu Himanen, the Finnish Ambassador in Russia, on Saturday referred to it as “a fake site” on Twitter.

Finnbay responded to the allegation on Sunday with a report threatening Himanen with legal action unless he issues an apology.

In his Tweet, Himanen referred expressly to a report by Finnbay on Finland's policy toward Russia, which in light of the uncertainties related to the publisher appears to raise questions about the news site's affiliations with Russia.

The suspicions are substantiated further by an earlier announcement that Finnbay is set to launch a print newspaper in co-operation with the Russian-language newspaper Novosti Helsinki next summer. The newspaper has applied for funding from the Pravfond Foundation, which protects the rights of Russian expatriates and disburses financial support for publications reporting on the treatment of Russian citizens.

Irina Tabakova, the editor-in-chief of Novosti Helsinki, says that the co-operation with Finnbay only extends to the translation of articles for publication in both newspapers. “We are in no way responsible for Finnbay,” she stresses.

Yalcintas, she adds, has asked that his contact information not be passed on.

Helsingin Sanomat looked into the backgrounds of Finnbay and the people involved from the Finnish Trade Register but found no suspicious affiliations.

Reports published by Finnbay have been cited a few times by foreign news outlets, including the British The Economist and the American NBC News. In Russia, the news portal remained relatively unknown prior to the recent controversy.

Information obtained by Helsingin Sanomat indicates that Finnbay operates primarily with the help of interns and volunteers. Yet, the inters reached by the daily were unable to shed light on the nature of the editorial staff or organisation of the news outlet.

Under the Finnish law, online news sites must identify their editor-in-chief.

“All regularly updated blogs should as a principle provide the required contact information, but the matter is not of particular relevance if the operations are not commercial,” points out Ville Oksanen, an expert in technology law at the Electronic Frontier Finland.

The operations of Finnbay, however, are explicitly commercial, its articles being behind a pay-wall.

Pekka Hakala, Tommi Hannula, Matti Koskinen, Tuomo Pietiläinen – HS
Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Photo: A screenshot of the Finnbay web-page.