Family values group head fined over journalist ejection from public protest

Varro Vooglaid.
Varro Vooglaid. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

The chief of a family values pressure group has been fined €320 over the ejection of a journalist from a public protest against Covid restrictions in February this year. Varro Vooglaid, of the Foundation for the Protection of the Family and Tradition (SAPTK), says he intends to take the matter to court.

"The out-of-court settlement, after examining the materials relating to the misdemeanor case, takes the position that the evidence gathered … establishes that Varro Vooglaid committed the offense as alleged in the misdemeanor report, in the course of being the organizer and steward of a public meeting," the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) report reads.

The PPA itself issued the fine, based on the Penal Code.

"The person named in the proceedings at no point intervened or called over those participants in the demonstration who surrounded a journalist and attacked their security via hostile behavior, but rather restated alongside the participants at the demonstration that he, Sander Punamäe, should disappear, get out of there, leave, and be ashamed."

Punamäe at the time worked for daily Postimees.

The PPA imposed a fine of €320 on Vooglaid in respect of the incident and the misdemeanor proceedings.

Vooglaid stated via a press release that the proceedings, which he intends to appeal, began following a complaint from Punamäe over the incident.

However, Riina Printsmann, leading investigator of the PPA's eastern Harju County division told ERR that the authority had received information about the incident, which took place in a public street outside the Stenbock House, the seat of the Estonian government, on February 17, and that misdemeanor proceedings had been initiated on the basis of the ensuing, collected evidence.

Printsmann said: "The organizer of a public meeting has the obligation to ensure that that meeting goes ahead peaceably. In May, a misdemeanor report was prepared in respect of V. Vooglaid, for violating the established requirements for holding a public meeting, and a fine was imposed on him. The decision has not entered into force."

Vooglaid says the PPA decision is biased and ignores the most important circumstances from the point of view of making any legal assessment.

Vooglaid said this fell down: "Both on the fact that the order given to Punamäe to leave the event was based on the intention of fulfilling a meeting organizer's obligation to ensure the peaceful conduct of the meeting and its security, and on the fact that nothing confirms any conclusion that the meeting did not take place peacefully or presented a real threat," adding that several PPA officials were on the scene throughout the meeting and that he had worked constructively with them.

"In our objection to the misdemeanor report, we stress that an individual's subjective sense of danger cannot be a basis for classifying a misdemeanor offense, and that what matters is whether or not the individual was in actual danger, in the light of the facts."


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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