Pro-Kremlin TV channels may be banned in Estonia in next 24 hours
Proceedings are underway to bar the broadcast of several Kremlim-controlled TV channels on Estonian territory, following Thursday's full scale military invasion of Ukraine by the Russian Federation.
The main consumer body in Estonia, the Consumer Protection and Technical Regulatory Authority (TTJA) has initiated proceedings to potentially bar , with eight channels currently under particular scrutiny, the authority says.
These include RTR-Planeta, RTVI, Rossija 24, REN TV, NTV Mir and PBK.
Should the TTJA opt to ban the re-transmission of these channels within Estonia, telecoms service providers must do so immediately.
TTJA director Kaur Kajak says that: "Russian propaganda channels have constantly incited hatred and made propaganda, including war propaganda," with the difference this time being, he said, that now the propaganda has had a clear effect.
Kajak added that the TTJA will do its utmost to make its decision within the next 24 hours, a decision which must have a clear legal basis.
Opposition parties support move
The three opposition parties have supported a move to ban Russian propaganda channels from Estonia, with Isamaa leader Helir-Valdor Seeder saying his party had already submitted a bill to the Riigikogu to do just that, adding the government has done nothing about it.
Seeder said: "We see that private companies themselves have taken the initiative, but unfortunately the government has not made such a decision. Taking control of information channels in such a situation is of the utmost importance, yet it is one of the things where the government has unfortunately dragged its heels in doing. Now this has to be done in hours, not days. "
Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) leader Martin Helme said the situation is longer a question of freedom of speech or freedom of the media, but rather misinformation which sows discord in Estonia.
The Social Democratic Party's (SDE) new leader, Lauri Läänemets, said the coalition Center Party is slowing down the government's decision on this issue, while Reform has not asserted itself adequately.
Läänemets said: "As we saw yesterday in the vote of a statement condemning Russia's actions in the Riigikogu, unfortunately not all members of one government party voted in favor."
The Center Party has an agreement with United Russia.
Läänemets added that simply closing down the TV channels was insufficient; reaching out to the Russian-speaking populace of Estonia, for instance via ERR's Russian-language TV channel ETV+, needed to be enlarged.
One of the two major media groups in Estonia, the Postimees Group, has announced it is terminating an agreement which permitted the sale of advertising spots on Russian TV channels, Taavi Lätti, Postimees Group board member and sales director, said.
Postimees bars adsales spots on Russian-controlled channels
Postimees had sold advertising to RBK, NTW Mir Est, REN-TV Estonia and DOM Kino.
The Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) has issued two memoranda regarding the imposition of international sanctions, as agreed by the European Council on Wednesday, which pertain to radio and television organizations and service providers, in addition to financial institutions.
Two of Estonia's main telecomms companies, Telia and Elisa, both announced earlier in the week that they would be terminating agreements with the local franchisee of Kremlin-controlled TV companies, including PBK Estonia, REN TV Estonia and NTV Mir Estonia.
The Telia and Elisa ban will come into effect in two months' time, as things stand.
Latvia made a similar announcement, with immediate effect, on Thursday, following news of the military assault on several Ukrainian cities, including its capital, Kyiv.
The Kremlin has also threatened to block access inside Russia to ERR's Russian-language portal.
Two days ago, U.K. Labour Party opposition leader Keir Starmer called for the barring of English-language Kremlin propaganda site Russia Today (RT) from the airwaves in that country, while former First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond, who has a long-standing relationship with RT, has opted to halt the show he presents on the channel.
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Editor: Andrew Whyte