Is Estonia's press freedom in danger?
Two journalists in Estonia who recently spoke out critically about the new far-right coalition partner Ekre handed in their resignations last week. Both claimed that their employer had demanded that they be "more neutral" in their reporting. Vilja Kiisler hosted a talk show on the website of Postimees newspaper; Ahto Lobjakas was a commentator for the public radio broadcaster ERR. While some journalists voice concern, others see no reason to worry.
Nothing worse than self-censorship
Õhtuleht recalls only too well the days when Estonia lacked press freedom:
“The more the ERR insists that no pressure was applied, the more questions arise as to why Ahto Lobjakas resigned as an ERR commentator. Particularly when he himself says that he was given the choice between self-censorship and resigning. ... Self-censorship is the worst. It can creep in subconsciously, because journalists are only humans and have to make a living and pay off loans like the rest of us. Some may say it's not too much to ask that some opinions should go unsaid, some questions should go unposed, and that it's better not to report on certain suspicious events, all in the interest of collegiality. If that's the case, then soon we'll have to start listening to Voice of America and Radio Free Europe again.”
Journalists must be able to deal with feedback
ERR's CEO Erik Roose stressed in a statement on ERR Online that press freedom is not under threat at the broadcaster:
“Ahto Lobjakas's decision to stop being a commentator was informed by his own personal will. The management had gathered information about the feedback on various programmes. It is part of the normal editorial process that journalists get feedback on their work. ... In assessing the activities of ERR one must take the entire programme into account, and the fate of a single journalist should not be interpreted as a danger to press freedom. Press freedom is not something ERR uses as a bargaining chip.”