The Richness of Life Party (Estonian: Elurikkuse Erakond) is organising a debate outside the ERR buildings on Wednesday, in protest at being exlcuded from ETV's Election studio series of televised pre-election debates. This is the second time the party has picketed the same location this month.
ERR's own criteria for participation in each of the five 75-minute Election studio shows included that parties represented should be running full 125-candidate lists in the general election.
Since Richness of Life, whilst it is running candidates in all 12 of Estonia's electoral districts, did not meet this requirement (on average the party is running about three candidates per district), it has not been invited on the show.
Despite a complaint from the party to the Chancellor of Justice's office on the matter being overruled as not conflicting with the Estonian constitution, Richness of Life is doubling-down on its stance, with the outdoor debate taking place at 20.00 EET on Wednesday,outside the TV House on F.R. Faehlmanni Street.
''The use of the full list as a criterion only comes from ERR's board. Richness of Life has a national list and people can vote in every district for our candidates,'' Artur Talvik, party co-founder, said on Wednesday.
''Is there really no room for one more party in the ETV studios? Our recourse to the chancellor's office led to an assessment only based on compliance with the law; the office did not take a stance on the matter. This unequal treatment by ERR of nationally-listed political parties must end,'' Mr Talvik, whose late father Mati Talvik worked for many years as a TV journalist with the broadcaster, continued.
''As a result, we are holding our own debate, consisting solely of Richness of Life members, outside the TV house at eight o' clock. All are welcome to put questions to the party and we will be carrying it on our own Facebook page,'' Mr Talvik, who is not party leader – the party does not have a leader, although Mihkel Kangur is its ''prime ministerial candidate'' – said.
Wednesday night's ETV Election studio broadcast is the penultimate installment of five, which began on 6 February. The final broadcast is on Saturday, 2 March, the night before election day.
Richness of Life is one of two eco-focussed parties, the other being the Green Party, and, along with Estonia 200, one of two new parties contesting their first election, having been formed in the latter half of 2018. Both the Greens and Estonia 200 are running full 125-candidate lists and so are eligible to appear on Election studio.
Plenty of other coverage
Richness of Life has also been invited to, and appeared on, other pre-election broadcasts including on Vikkerradio, and was included in ERR's ''Election compass'' app, which listed parties in order of suitability to individuals on the basis of an online questionnaire.
The party was also invited to ERR News' English-language all-woman debate on 7 February, the day after it organised its first ERR picket, but did not send a candidate. The party did, however, send a panelist to participate in another English-language debate, organised by the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) the next day, hosted at the Hilton Park hotel and featuring a buffet lunch with a paying audience.
Artur Talvik has also been featured in an English language interview on ERR News.
ERR's board is made up of MPs in proportion to representation at the Riigikogu, including those from opposition parties, and industry experts; appointments to the board are under the guidance of the Riigikogu's multi-party Cultural Affairs Committee
Other safeguards include ERR's ethics ombudsman, to whom press complaints against the broadcaster should be directed in the first instance, and editorial independence enshrined in the broadcaster's own guidelines. The example set has to a large extent been followed by the private sector.
Editor: Andrew Whyte