Estonia: Controversy over anonymous commentaries

The issue of online commentaries is highly controversial in Estonia, and is now being investigated by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). In 2015 the online portal Delfi filed a lawsuit for violations of its freedom of opinion, after being ordered to pay a fine by the Estonian courts for allowing offensive user commentaries on its website. But the European judges confirmed that responsibility for user comments lay with the website.

Online comments on portal Delfi. (@Stefan Günther/n-ost)
Online comments on portal Delfi. (@Stefan Günther/n-ost)
Up to this point Estonian media outlets had refused to moderate their user comments and had allowed comments to be made anonymously. The high volume of hate-fuelled commentaries was making some journalists frightened to publish their opinions. In the wake of the ECHR ruling Postimees and ERR Online have put an end to anonymous comments on their sites, and users now have to identify themselves with an electronic ID. The tone of the comments has improved significantly as a result.

Estonia has a variety of Russian-language media, including dailies, weeklies, web portals and radio channels. The Russian public television channel ERV+ has been on air since October 2015. Having failed to attract high viewer numbers it focuses predominantly on online users.

Eesti Meedia made headlines with its takeover of the newspaper Postimees in 2013. At the time the group belonged in part (now entirely) to the pharmaceutical entrepreneur Margus Linnamäe. Shortly after the acquisition of Postimees by Eesti Meedia the parliament discussed the pharmacy law. The newspaper's support for the interests of pharmaceutical monopolies was conspicuous.
Blogs and social networks are playing an increasing important role. The social media postings by politicians and other public figures are published regularly on web portals and are boosting the number of visits to these sites. As a result influential blogs like Politika.guru often have as large a reach as the websites of the long-established papers.

Press freedom has been anchored in the Estonian constitution since the country became independent in 1991.

Press Freedom Rating:

Reporters Without Borders: 12th place (2017)
Freedom House: 15th place – status: free( 2016)

Updated: May 2017
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