EKRE MP mulls stepping down from ERR board after social media post outcry

Urmas Reitelmann (EKRE).
Urmas Reitelmann (EKRE). Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

Urmas Reitelmann, Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) MP and the party's representative on public broadcaster ERR's supervisory board, has said he is considering quitting the post. Reitelmann had posted homophobic comments about ETV presenters on his social media account Thursday night.

Hours after the coalition released a joint statement on Thursday afternoon in resolution to a government crisis caused by homophobia, Reitelmann wrote an insulting social media post aimed at the two presenters of current affairs show "Ringvaade".

The post, which was deleted on Friday morning, called presenters Marko Reikop and Grete Lõbu "sodomites" and criticised other presenters for being "biased".

On Friday night, Reitelmann wrote on Facebook that he is considering leaving the board.

"Apparently it makes sense for me to announce to the conservative party group on Monday that I will leave the supervisory board of [Estonian] Public Broadcasting and thereby take away the bone from left liberals for attacking the government," he said on social media.

"In doing it, I can already imagine the joy of the ERR management board, a part of the supervisory board, and foremost the cultural Marxist editors. The pin in the butt is gone! One can continue doing everything without any hindrance: engage in leftist liberal propaganda without being disturbed, leverage PR companies' campaign messages, disseminate the homosexual agenda and fake news without Reitelmann demanding answers from anybody. On the upside, I will no longer have to watch AK and answer questions from angry and disgruntled viewers every other day why the supervisory board is not taking any steps," the MP added, referring to the "Aktuaalne kaamera" current affairs program of ETV.

ERR supervisory board chair Rein Veidemann has proposed to EKRE chair Martin Helme that he recall Reitelmann, appointed by the party, from the board, due to his behavior.

ERR's supervisory board consists of one representative from each elected Riigikogu party - currently five - along with three independent experts.

Deputy Chairman of the Riigikogu's Culture Committee Heidy Purga (Reform) also said during the day that her party will initiate the recall of Reitelmann from the board.

Reikop and Lõbu said on Friday they are considering taking legal action against Reitelmann.

"It is important that people's honor and dignity are being openly insulted. If a member of the Riigikogu does so, this is an unprecedented case," he said. "It is inconceivable that such a person oversees a large and dignified organization. It is unbelievable that such a person is on the supervisory board of ERR."

Reitelmann: Word I used merely descriptive, ERR uses taxpayer funds to attack coalition and 'promote' same-sex attraction

Reitelmann said he removed the social media post because of the backlash, adding that he does not believe he crossed a line.

He said interviews on ETV shows, broadcast by ERR, "Ringvaade" and "Aktuaalne kaamera (AK)" were biased which prompted his post.

"When it comes to the public broadcaster, it is not acceptable when people assume political positions. Marko Reikop's interview with Urmo Soonvald was dripping with indignation and spite that the government remained standing," he said.

Urmo Soonvald is editor in chief at portal Delfi and daily Eesti Päevaleht, part of the Ekspress Meedia Group and not bound by the same legal requirement for balance that the public broadcaster is.

Reitelmann said that nevertheless, Soonvald's appearance on "Ringvaade" was deliberate in that his track record showed that he would attack the coalition.

"This program was blatantly one-sided," he said, going on to say that a similar approach was taken by AK presenter Johannes Tralla and senior political journalist Toomas Sildam, about the government's crisis resolution on Thursday's agreement and its implications.

"There have been many violations of the Broadcasting Act and I have been talking about them for as long as I have been on the supervisory board of the public broadcaster, but to no avail. The supervisory board considers that everything is in the best order, but it is not. It is simply not right to do things in this way, it is not appropriate for a public broadcaster," he went on.

As for his post, Reitelmann said the homophobic slur he used was a descriptive term, though added that ERR, in spite of his tenure on the supervisory board, distributes: "Doses of same-gender attraction ... practically every week; it is not appropriate for an employee of the public broadcaster to promote their preferences. This is not a place to spread any ideas using the taxpayer money," he said.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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