Kersna: Education, not more legislation, can help fight propaganda

Liina Kersna.
Liina Kersna. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Former Estonian Minister of Education and current member of the Riigikogu's a member of the Riigikogu's Cultural Affairs Committee Liina Kersna (Reform) does not support the regulation of journalism at the level of national officials or the law.

Speaking on Vikerraadio show "Uudis +," Kersna said, that educating people and quality journalism education are the main ways to fight Russian propaganda.

The Estonian Consumer Protection and Technical Regulatory Authority (TTJA) wants to introduce legislation obliging an obligation media service providers to express valid and impartial positions in news programs, Helen Rohtla, head of the agency's information society department, told ERR.

According to Rohtla, it would also be worth considering extending these requirement to all broadcasts.

"I think this is an extremely slippery slope and I would refrain from introducing any kind of regulation of journalism at the level of the law. Journalism is built on the principle of self-regulation," Kersna said.

Kersna, who has a degree in journalism and has worked in the media herself, pointed to the fact that according to data from last year, Estonia was fourth in the World Press Freedom Index. By contrast, Latvia, which the TTJA highlights as a positive example, was ranked 22nd.

"Latvia's legislative framework today allows for more preventive measures than ours," said Helen Rohtla, head of the TTJA's information society department, in an interview with ERR.

"In the context of press freedom, we are really proud to be a Nordic country, because Norway, Denmark and Sweden come before us, and Finland comes after us. I don't know if Latvia is a good example in this context," said Kersna.

Overall, however, Kersna described the interview with Rohtla as balanced. "She suggested that we could discuss this issue. That we are discussing such issues also demonstrates openness and the freedom of the press. The opinions of press organizations will certainly be sought. But I personally am definitely not in favor of regulating the press at the level of the law," Kersna said.

In Kersna's view, there are other ways to prevent and protect against the impact of harmful external influences, such as propaganda, on the Estonian people.

"I think there are two very important components to prevention. First, we have to make sure that there is quality higher education for future journalists. And the second is teaching media literacy in schools," Kersna said.

"In this area too, we are leading the way in the European context. In our schools, children are taught critical thinking and to be critical of sources. This is also being developed further, particularly at national level, so that it becomes part of the regular curriculum in our schools. These two things are more effective than regulation or control by national officials," said Kersna.


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Editor: Michael Cole

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