Daily Postimees has responded to recent claims by nonprofit NGO Reporters Without Borders (RSF), which said that it was "extremely concerned" for the future of independent journalism in Estonia after an exodus of nearly all investigative reporters and editorial writers from the paper in recent weeks.
Postimees said (link in English) late last week that it intended to continue its standard of journalism, noting that the RSF original statements contained factual errors – one of which had been corrected, and that while the paper had had a turblent year, its newsroom and over 100 journalists continued to strive for a "united front for the sake of credibility and influence."
"We do our work with both passion and freedom. Postimees will continue to do this both in investigative and opinion journalism. We will not stop covering all political, business and civic actors fairly," the statement continued, adding that the daily is printed six days a week and the website is staffed around the clock.
The statement rounded off by Postimees noting its openness to having any mistakes highlighted, saying this represented valuable feedback as much as praise does, and listed the names of 15 senior journalists and editors, including acting Editor-in-chief Kalev Korv.
RSF expressed concern last week 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 Postimees Grupp owner Margus Linnamäe's control of the paper 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, allegedly blurring the distinction between journalism and advertising.
The most recent wave of departures was precipitated by the firing of executive publisher, long-term employee Merili Nikkolo, just before Christmas, after which six other journalists left of their own accord.
Former editor-in-chief Peeter Helme quit the daily in November after a little over six months on the job, amid speculation that he had been ousted in a newsroom coup. Helme's predecessor, Lauri Hussar, had stepped down to pursue a career in politics, running for the Estonia 200 party at the May European elections.
Postimees is Estonia's largest daily and traces its lineage back to the original newspaper (which was not a daily) of the same name, founded by Johann Voldemar Jannsen in Pärnu in 1857. During the Soviet era, what had been Postimees continued as Edasi ("forward"), and reemerged under its original name after the restoration of Estonian independence.
Margus Linnamäe has several other business concerns under his belt, including a pharmaceuticals wholesaler (Magnum Medical) and related chain (Apotheka), and an entertainment group (Apollo Group).
Estonia currently ranks 11th in the RSF press freedoms index, but has fallen down the rankings in recent years. Some years ago it ranked as high as fourth place.
Editor: Andrew Whyte