Chairman of the Estonian Conservative People's Party (EKRE) Martin Helme said that the prosecution should not get to decide what the press can report when commenting on Eesti Ekspress journalists being fined for covering money laundering suspicions against Swedbank.
Helme told ERR that the Prosecutor's Office has cornered a monopoly on influencing the media.
"We all know that the prosecution is leaking things rather indiscriminately," Helme suggested.
"This usually ends up violating the rights of suspects or accused. They [the prosecution] are happy to leak things when it suits them in political or other matters. And we know that the press is happy to receive those leaks. They always have, so they are a little baffled today in terms of what the problem is," Helme said.
Helme said it should be a given that judicial proceedings materials that have not been made public will not be leaked by law enforcement.
"The presumption of innocence entails knowing what you are charged with or suspected of and by who. Not having to ready about your suspect status from the newspaper," the EKRE leader said.
At the same time, people who have been handed a suspicion or charges could still be free to discuss it in public, he added.
"A person whose head is on the legal chopping block must have every opportunity to defend themselves. It's their skin in the game. If the state comes after you with everything it's got, why should we rob the person of the chance to defend themselves in public, outside the courtroom. We know how a person can be acquitted in court but still condemned in public," Helme said.
"I read the comments by [Chief State Prosecutor Taavi] Pern. It is embarrassing. Pern has always been among the busiest manipulators of such materials. To now huff and puff and talk about protecting themselves or the integrity of the process – Pern should be the last person to say such things," Helme offered.
Amendments in order
Should the fines against Eesti Ekspress journalists for reporting on Swedbank money laundering stand in second and third instance courts, the law should be amended, Helme found.
"I would not like to leave the prosecution with such powers," Helme said. "They have been openly manipulating things for ages: public opinion, administration of justice. I have no confidence in them whatsoever."
"It is not an isolated incident. Infringement proceedings have been brought against us in the EU based on the prosecution's handling of data. Surveillance and the like. The prosecution is misusing its authority on multiple levels, and there is simply no political will, especially outside our party, to tackle the problem," Helme said.
Isamaa has no position
Opposition Isamaa party leader Helir-Valdor Seeder said that he has not yet read media coverage of the fines Eesti Ekspress and its journalists were ordered to pay and cannot therefore comment.
Judge Alari Mölder of the Harju County Court fined Eesti Ekspress journalists Tarmo Vahter and Sulev Vedler for revealing in a March 25 article that the former board of Swedbank Estonia has been handed suspicions of money laundering. The journalists and the weekly contested the decision last Friday.
Editor: Marcus Turovski