Daily Eesti Päevaleht (EPL) has lost an appeal on a lawsuit brought against it by Centre Party MP Oudekki Loone, after the Supreme Court upheld the decision in favour of Ms. Loone and threw out EPL's appeal.
The case concerned an article which had appeared in the paper and which Ms Loone claimed was libellous. The Circuit Court in Estonia had ordered the paper to amend facts it had reported in October 2016 concerning cash and documents it said disappeared from the party's Tartu office.
The court found that to any ''normal'' reader the facts as they appeared in the EPL article implied the sitting MP had engaged in theft, facts which had not been substantiated by the paper and thus were detrimental to Ms Loone's public image.
Press freedom issue
The Circuit Court then referred to the Supreme Court the obligation to rebut the incorrect data, being both in the interests of protecting the rights of the accused, and on the issue of press freedom.
"Ensuring that the requirement to disseminate reliable information on inaccurate data published, by imposing the obligation to refute said facts cannot, in principle, be regarded as a restriction on the freedom of the press," the court found. The Supreme Court upheld the Circuit Court decision.
Oudekki Loone said: "I am delighted the Circuit Court ruling affirms the duty of journalists to report the truth and take into account the perceptions of the average, rational reader," it is reported.
"Any publisher of false facts is responsible for their fiction; journalist cannot use language and unnamed sources in order to show people in a bad light concerning their choices,'' she continued.
The Estonian court system operates on three tiers, in ascending seniority the County, Circuit and Supreme Courts.
Editor: Andrew Whyte