ERR journalists: 'Cancel culture' has no place in Estonia

Anvar Samost (left) and Janek Luts.
Anvar Samost (left) and Janek Luts. Source: ERR

"Cancel culture" as practised and popular in the United States need not be imported into Estonia, which enjoys freedom of speech, senior ERR journalists Anvar Samost and Janek Luts find. Those objecting to people's words, tone or overall message, when expressed as an opinion, can always switch off.

Speaking on Sunday afternoon Vikerraadio discussion show "Samost and Luts", more usually "Samost and [Toomas] Sildam" but with Janek Luts standing in for the latter, Samost said that a recent attempt by a radio journalist to sue an individual who had started a petition to get them removed from the airwaves was justifiable.

The broadcaster, Alari Kivisaar, is seeking €75,000 in damages from Katrina Raiend, organizer of a petition which calls for Kivisaar's dismissal as co-host of a SkyPlus radio talk show, after he allegedly made on-air remarks about the George Floyd police slaying in the U.S. which included a racial slur. Kivisaar says the petition represents a mass online defamation campaign which constitutes slander.

Trying to silence Kivisaar, regardless of how you may have viewed his words, was not an appropriate approach to take, Samost said.

"Compiling petitions is not just some sort of fun sport; it is also practised in the U.S. [as a form of cancel culture]," he said.

"There is freedom of speech in Estonia," he stressed, adding that a listener who does not like the content of a show can turn the dial.

"If there's a radio station, for example, where things are getting heated, should we draw precise lines, which words can be used and which can't?" he added.

Janek Luts agreed, noting that on the episode in question, Kivisaar was not speaking in a different manner or tone than he generally does in his breakfast show, and so those who don't appreciate his style should just not listen.

Humorists Mart Juur and Andrus Kivirähk use a lexicon in their (ERR) Raadio 2 broadcast "Rahva oma kaitse" which would not be in evidence with other presenters on other shows, but which need to be taken in the context of "Rahva oma kaitse" alone, Luts said.

"The public expression of an opinion cannot be regulated," Luts added.

"Cancel culture", or "call-out culture" as it it sometimes known, involves an individual or individuals being sent to Coventry, ie. ostracized, usually from either their social or professional sphere, or both, and across all forms of media, in particular social media.

Some discussion questions whether it exists to the extent depicted; concrete examples from the U.S. might include comedienne Roseanne Barr, whose long-running, eponymous show was canceled after a 2018 tweet condemned as racist by many, or the recent, temporary deplatforming of Donald Trump Jr., son of the current president, for issuing a post, again on Twitter, which claimed face masks were unnecessary during the coronavirus pandemic.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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