Paris-based international nonprofit non-governmental organization Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is "extremely concerned" for the future of independent journalism in Estonia after an exodus of nearly all investigative reporters and editorial writers from leading daily Postimees in recent weeks.
"The crisis at Postimees seems to be the culmination of a series of disagreements between its journalists and management that began in 2015, when Margus Linnamäe became the sole owner, a wealthy businessman who made his fortune in pharmaceutical retail," RSF wrote, noting that the daily, founded in 1857, had been Estonia's most respected newspaper until now.
A more recent wave was precipitated by the firing of executive publisher Merili Nikkolo on December 23 due to "differences about implementation of the newspaper's vision," after which six other journalists left of their own accord, one of them specifically stating that Nikkolo's firing was a clear sign that the paper's journalists and the paper's board of governors "cannot move forward together."
RSF expressed concern that the exodus from Postimees could mark the end of investigative journalism in a country that had until now been seen as a model of press freedom, adding that the possible disappearance of the independent paper could prove disastrous for a country the size of Estonia, "one in which the media are already very polarized between the state-funded public radio and TV broadcaster and a major private-sector media company, Ekspress Grupp."
The nonprofit noted that it had previously voiced concern over Linnamäe's control of Postimees last April, when its journalists said they had been subject to various forms of pressure to cover events linked to his various other business interests, blurring the distinction between journalism and advertising.
Editor: Aili Vahtla