The brouhaha over the fate of the state-funded cultural newspaper Sirp continues to resonate.
The paper this week appointed a brash new interim editor and sacked all of the main heading editors. On Thursday evening it looked like the exodus was continuing with reports of other journalists leaving the paper.
Chairman of the Writers Union Karl Martin Sinijärv criticized the decision on Friday. "Demolishing a working structure overnight and use of brutal tactics when the print run and website visits are constantly growing signals something other than concern over the welfare of Sirp," he said.
"A clearly partisan chain of command has run roughshod over human and cultural values and this cannot be accepted regardless of the outcome."
Sinijärv did not specify what he meant by partisan, but Postimees reported today that the cultural rumor mill is full of talk that the culture minister, Rein Lang (Reform), played a role in the changes. Lang reportedly had considered outsourcing the production of Sirp to a private media firm.
On a panel on ETV, writer Jan Kaus also confronted the new interim editor, Kaur Kender, directly. "How you get rid of people is very symbolic. You started very poorly by throwing people out. It could have been handled much more delicately," he told Kender, who was seated across from him.
Kender defended the paper's new mission in an ETV studio interview on Thursday night. He emphasized the paper's role in moderating a more civil political debate. He also referred to Juhan Viiding, a respected late Estonian poet who happens to be an in-law of the outgoing Sirp editor, Kaarel Tarand.
"We'd like to publish the kind of paper that Juhan Viiding would want to contribute to and we'd like to live in the kind of Estonia where Juhan Viiding would have liked to go on living."
Viiding committed suicide in 1995, according to some theories, over disillusionment over perceived political trends.
Sirp (Sickle), known previously as Kultuurileht, dates back to the communist-era publication called Sirp ja Vasar (Hammer and Sickle). When it reopened as Sirp in the later 1990s, the content bore no resemblance to that of its Soviet predecessor, but many have criticized it for staid black and white text-heavy layouts.