Parties reject invitation to political debate on private TV channel

Kanal 2 is owned by Postimees Grupp.
Kanal 2 is owned by Postimees Grupp. Source: Postimees/Scanpix

The leaders of the Social Democratic Party (SDE), Isamaa, the Centre Party, Estonia 200, the Reform Party and the Conservative People's Party (EKRE) have rejected an invitation by privately-owned TV channel Kanal 2 to a live pre-election debate on 27 February, questioning the channel's choice of Katrin Lust and Jüri Butšakov as hosts.

"We see the role of the free media as being of utmost importance during the run-up to the election. It is thanks to the day-to-day work of the media that people can get an idea of what the challenges are facing Estonia in the coming few years, and what solutions different political forces can offer. There is no doubt that debates—no matter whether in the print media, on the radio or on TV—are one of the best journalistic formats to introduce different world views," the leaders of the six parties said in a joint statement.

But they do not agree with Kanal 2's choice of hosts, they further stated. Both Ms Lust and Mr Butšakov are known for much more popular TV formats that have in the past got them the label of producing trash TV. In any case, the party leaders do not see the expected level of the debate as high enough to justify participation.

"Instead, leaders of political parties are invited to a show, where the central stage is yielded to entertainment. In our opinion, this ridicules the Riigikogu election," the party leaders wrote, adding that it also insults the national parliament as one of the most important institutions of a democratic society.

"Therefore we have decided to turn down the invitation to appear in the show of Kanal 2," signatories Kaja Kallas (Reform), Kristina Kallas (Estonia 200), Jüri Ratas (Centre), Mart Helme (EKRE), Jevgeni Ossinovski (SDE) and Helir-Valdor Seeder (Isamaa) wrote.

Kanal 2 stated that they are "seriously concerned" about the politicians' refusal to participate, calling their stance a "boycott" and accusing them of "depriving thousands of viewers of the possibility to hear the opinions of top politicians in the format of a pre-election debate", the Baltic News Service reported on Tuesday.

The election campaign has so far seen at least a dozen different debates in a variety of formats, five of them in English.

Editor: Dario Cavegn

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