Journalist Banned from Courtroom for Critical Opinion Piece, Unauthorized Recording
The controversial issue of journalists and commentators who "insult the honor" of judges is back in the news this week after a journalist for the country's top business daily was banned from a courtroom in a corruption case.
The journalist, Katariina Krjutškova, wrote several opinion pieces in the daily, questioning the independence of Anu Uritam, presiding in the so-called Autorollo case. Among other points brought up by Krjutškova, Uritam has not completed her three-year probationary period.
In the most recent piece, published October 15, Krjutškova criticized what she perceived as the lack of transparency of the judicial system - in particular, the system for assessing the suitability of a judge for his or her position. She said the evaluation committee and Supreme Court justices "answered to no one."
"Estonia appears to have accepted the assumption that a judge is an authority whose objectivity is beyond question," read the beginning of the piece in Äripäev, which noted that the matter is especially relevant in a case involving high officials.
She was also accused of turning on a recorder during a hearing without permission.
The court had earlier also filed a complaint with the Press Council over the most recent opinion piece.
The court said its decision to ban Krjutškova from the proceedings extended only to her, not other Äripäev journalists.
Harju County Court is currently hearing the so-called Autorollo case, which involves Environment Minister Keit Pentus-Rosimannus.
In the scandal, KredEx, the state export credit and guarantee fund, was one of the leading creditors in a bankrupt company owned by the minister's father. The court is sifting through the circumstances under which the state body co-signed a large loan taken by the company, Autorollo.