Thirty-two years after the restoration of our independence, we have officials whose perspectives of world affairs are increasingly similar to those of the very people they are trying to protect us from, Urmet Kook, head of ERR's portals, writes.
Officials of the Consumer Protection and Technical Supervision Authority (TTJA) have begun retroactively whitewashing and reiterating their talking points (link in Estonian), as if it were a single poorly worded sentence in a document they sent, that objectivity checks on the content of news programs they are suggesting will only apply to foreign media outlets, not Estonian ones.
The interview with Helen Rohtla, head of the agency's information society department, is thankfully available in black and white on the ERR website, and it is evident that it also references Estonian media.
In addition, the official believes that the regulation could be expanded beyond news outlets ("It could be discussed with the parties as to whether to limit it to news programs or whether it could be extended to other programs as well.") She cites Latvia as an example of a country that has gone much further in regulating the press. ("Our southern neighbors have given more thought to potential issues. Maybe we can learn from our neighbors.")
I recall that a media outlet in Latvia was recently fined because a guest on a program used a word in the "wrong" sense, not the outlet itself. For instance, Inga Springe, one of the founding members of the investigative journalism center Re:Baltica, has spoken at length about "hate speech and witch-hunting" in Latvia.
In Estonia, there is outstanding journalism, but there is also bad journalism. As in all other democratic nations. The fact that we have relatively little state regulation of the press and a highly self-regulatory press has been Estonia's greatest strength to date.
I have served two terms as a member of the Press Council, the press's self-regulatory authority, and I can assure you that this organization is devoid of any silk-necked treatment or club-protection mentality. If a person believes that the Press Council is inadequate and that their rights have been violated, they can always file a lawsuit in court.
To begin regulating the press by the state and thus bring about self-censorship, however, reveals a totalitarian mentality.
What worries me, and not just in this particular case, is that 32 years after the restoration of independence, we have officials (I am certainly not generalizing this to all officials) whose perceptions of the ways of the world increasingly resemble those from whom, according to their words, they claim to be protecting us. Curiously, they have lived most of their lives in free Estonia.
Editor: Kristina Kersa