Paper: University of Tartu refused to publish article on Huawei

Erik Puura.
Erik Puura. Source: Katre Tatrik/University of Tartu

The February issue of University of Tartu magazine Universitas Tartuensis was supposed to include an article by editor Mari Eesmaa about a cooperation agreement signed between the university and Chinese tech giant Huawei last fall, but under unclear circumstances, the article went unpublished, writes weekly Eesti Ekspress.

Eesmaa herself said that she is unaware of the exact reasoning behind the ban, and that she was informed of the decision not to publish her article by the university's communications director, Eesti Ekspress writes (link in Estonian). "I was disappointed first and foremost — why is the University of Tartu, where I have acquired my journalistic skills and critical thinking, now muzzling me?" she commented.

Formally, Universitas Tartuensis falls under the remit of the university's communications department, which in turn is subordinate to the university's director of administration, which follows guidelines set by the rectorate. Following this chain, it turned out that the initiative to not publish the article in question came from University of Tartu Vice-Rector Erik Puura.

Puura admitted that he indeed raised the question of whether such an article should be published in Universitas Tartuensis, adding that he thought that the matter should have been discussed by the magazine's college, to which he had wanted to direct the matter. The college, however, hasn't been convened in over five years already.

The article, titled "Cooperation agreement with Huawei has many facets," included quotes from Puura himself, Professor Urmas Varblane, Professor Jaak Vilo and Johan Skytte Institute of Political Studies Director Mihkel Solvak, and Eesti Ekspress, which had a chance to read the article in question, found it to be a balanced story, which Puura himself also stated.

Speaking with Puura, it remained unclear what exactly about the article didn't sit right with him. "There was no pressure on Huawei's part," he confirmed, adding that the university, at least in this form, should not get involved in political debate.


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