Rõivas in Media Row Over Government’s Press Conference ({{commentsTotal}})

Tarmu Tammerk, ERR's media ombudsman, criticized Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas for banning the capital’s television station from the government’s press conferences, comparing the move with Central Asian totalitarian leaders, while Rõivas insists the channel is far from serious journalism.

The television channel, which will cost city taxpayers 3.4 million euros in 2014, has been extensively criticized for having poor program quality, a scanty viewership and most recently, being a poorly disguised platform for election campaigns on the public purse and pro-Russia rhetoric.

A popular movement was launched on Facebook in 2011 to abolish the channel and allocate the funds to the capital’s kindergartens. The site currently has 13,000 likes.

Rõivas refused to accredit the station to the government’s press conferences and Tammerk said it violates principles of democracy, Delfi reported today.

“Saying that and deciding that puts the Estonian Prime Minister in the same league with the totalitarian Sun Kings of the former Soviet republics of Central Asia, who pick and choose how to interact with the press and deliberately ignore certain channels. Blocking access to the government’s press conference is an extreme method,” Tammerk told the station’s news program TÄNA, today.

“Today, Rõivas doesn’t like Tallinn TV. Next week, next month it could be another media outlet. I hope the Prime Minister will reconsider his decision, because the people compiling national press freedom statistics take a close look at how public and official information is shared,” Tammerk said.

So far, there are no signs of Rõivas changing his mind, as his tweet from this afternoon indicates: “All journalistic outlets are welcome to the government’s press conference. Calling Tallinn TV journalism would be an insult to journalism.”