Postimees editor-in-chief: Secrets can result in buyoff of politician

Priit Hõbemägi.
Priit Hõbemägi. Source: Patrik Tamm/ERR

Publishing Thursday's story about Riigikogu Foreign Affairs Commitee chair and Reform MP Marko Mihkelson's court case was motivated primarily by security considerations, Priit Hõbemägi, editor-in-chief of Estonian daily Postimees, said Friday.

Hõbemägi said that topics to be published in the press should always be questioned, and noted that the editorial staff at Postimees had considered at length before publishing an article stating that MP Marko Miheklson had been caught taking inappropriate pictures of a child.

"The decision was thoroughly considered," the editor-in-chief said in a special report broadcast by Postimees Friday. "What takes place in one's private life and remains subject to closed court cases doesn't have to end up front page news, but this incident involves an influential politician who has significant influence over Estonia's security policy."

In the current security situation, such secrets could result in the buyoff or recruitment of a politician, he continued.

"That hasn't happened, but the risk alone is so great that this must be talked about," Hõbemägi said. "This has long since been a secret; a lot of journalists and politicians know about it, but no one's talking. But it's precisely that which makes a politician vulnerable."

Georgi Beltadze, chief of Estonian-language news at Postimees, said that the Mihkelson case first reached the paper's editorial staff in mid-December 2021.

"We started working on it right away, but we were banned from working on this story under the previous editor-in-chief [Marti Aavik]," he recalled. "I don't know what agreements were involved there, but I secretly gave my person permission to continue investigating this thing. These aren't new folks on the editorial staff; we've been working on this topic for a long time."

Beltadze admitted that while the court case in question was a closed one, journalists have their own means of investigating things, but added that in order to protect their sources, he couldn't elaborate.

"I've been asked, 'Where's the hard evidence?'" he continued. "Postimees has seen the photos; that's the hard evidence. I've seen a sketch of a photo, and that was the reason we pursued the story. We knew in advance that this story would be polarizing, and that we may be attacked."


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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