Conservative People's Party MP Urmas Reitelmann who is going after public broadcaster ERR fails to understand that a public law media channel upholds the primary role of media to be independent as opposed to functioning as a department of a state institution, host Andrus Karnau said on the "Olukorrast riigis" radio show.
The hosts talked about Reitelmann's social media post where he said he wants an explanation from the board of ERR of how photographs from the Estonian Embassy in Washington of a memo on the hiring of Louis Freeh's law firm reached ERR's domestic desk and why they were published.
Andrus Karnau described Reitelmann's reaction as a direct threat as the post reads that ERR news chief Anvar Samost will have to give statements to the police should the EKRE MP fail to get a reply. In a subsequent post, Reitelmann wrote that because head of ERR supervisory board Rein Veidemann has not agreed with him, he will need to be replaced too if he fails to fall in line.
According to Karnau, the posts reflect a typical conviction in Estonia where state budget-funded ERR is compared to a state agency instead of being seen as an independent media organization.
"In this, Urmas Reitelmann is exhibiting ignorance in terms of what the independent press even means. The journalistic side of ERR is not a department of a state agency," Karnau said.
He explained that journalists base their work on professional criteria the most important of which is independence and no one can dictate to reporters what they believe is important and worthy of coverage.
Karnau said that the memorandum is significant and sparks enough public interest for the coverage to be warranted.
"The former newsreader has demonstrated complete incompetence in this matter," he said.
The host also compared Reitelmann to another EKRE politician, Pärnu city councilman Heldur Paulson who recently failed to find a cow when describing a modernist painting.
"His knowledge of the press is on the same level," Karnau said of Reitelmann, explaining that the latter is simply misusing his power trying to enforce self-censorship among journalists to make them think twice before publishing documents. He described threatening journalists with the police as direct censorship.
Co-host Harry Tuul said that Reitelmann could have simply contacted ERR for an explanation, while making it official puts pressure on the organization and its journalists and looks good to EKRE voters.
Tuul described Reitelmann's statements as a desire to muzzle journalists.
Karnau emphasized that the embassy memo that advises against hiring Freeh's firm wasn't even a state secret but simply labeled as "in-house use only."
Editor: Marcus Turovski