Erkki Bahovski: Was 1940 approach better than modern journalism's 'war hysteria'? ({{commentsTotal}})


Linguist Urmas Sutrop has claimed that Estonian journalism is scaring people with the specter of war. Editor-in-Chief of monthly magazine Diplomaatia Erkki Bahovski, however, doesn’t agree.

Urmas Sutrop wrote in [daily news portal] Delfi (link in Estonian) on Sunday that journalism is not allowed to scare people with war. “Watching ‘Aktuaalne Kaamera’ it seems as though the war has already begun,” Sutrop claimed. “We see alarming news about allies arriving here and Russian ships and planes acting acting ostentatiously on the Baltic Sea and all kinds of missile systems.”

There is nothing new about this opinion, of course. Estonian journalism is cursed in social media from time to time as well for all but kindling war hysteria.

I cannot believe that Sutrop and his sympathizers do not watch CNN or BBC, for example. There is already plenty of war on those two channels. CNN, for example, gained fame for bringing journalists together with the US military in 2003 in Iraq, where hostilities were broadcast practically in real time. BBC aired a debate program on Sunday, however, in which, among other things, the chances of Russia attacking the Baltic states was discussed.

But for some reason, it is “Aktuaalne Kaamera” specifically that is the bloodiest channel, in the the opinion of many.

Maybe Estonian journalism really has occasionally occasionally overdone it. Sutrop spoke of an imbalance, but how would this be measured? Shall we total the amount of screen time dedicated to tanks, missiles and bullets?

In any case, I prefer the current, perhaps occasionally overwrought journalism to that of 1939 and 1940, when people were entirely uninformed about what was going on in Estonia and beyond its borders. In 1939, people were informed about the Soviet bases after the decision had already been made to locate them there.

I opened the Päevaleht from June 15, 1940. It is known that on the previous day, June 14, a Finnish passenger aircraft known as the Kaleva was shot down with ten people on board. I will reproduce here the ETA’s news from the day before in full as used by the Päevaleht: “Finnish passenger aircraft ‘Kaleva’ crashed today on flight from Tallinn to Helsinki. Ten people died as a result.”

Päevaleht had not even written its own news story about the event. There was a total of three lines about the incident.

With respect to the paper, it must be pointed out that the leading story had been Paris’ falling into German hands. Two days later, however, Estonia itself was already occupied — and this did not depend upon the Päevaleht or other Estonian newspapers’ peril-ignoring tone.

So is it still worth accusing current Estonian journalism of war hysteria?

Editor: Editor: Aili Vahtla

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