Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) MP and deputy chair Martin Helme has requested that journalists at public broadcaster ERR who demonstrate bias in their coverage, should be taken off air.
In a letter to the broadcaster's supervisory council, of which he is a member, Mr Helme said that he wanted to raise an agenda point concerning imbalance in post-election coverage in both news and opinion broadcasts, without naming names or concrete examples, according to ERR's Estonian news.
Mr Helme stated that a ''serious legal violation'' pursuant to sections 3.3, 3.5, and 6.2-6.5 of the ERR Act 2007, the law dealing with the organisation and running of the broadcaster, had taken place in the broadcaster's coverage, and requested that those responsible be punished in a ''timely and proportionate manner''.
ERR was founded in 2007 in a merger of the formerly separate radio and TV public broadcasters, and is funded via the state budget. It has a management board of its own.
Separate to that is a broadcasting supervisory council, made up of four independent experts, plus representatives from all the elected political parties. The supervisory council appoints to the board in conjunction with the Riigkogu's Cultural Affairs Committee (also multi-party). Since EKRE is an elected parliamentary party, it has a representative on those bodies; Mr Helme, in the case of the supervisory council.
''Will the ERR board, as usual, raise its hand and say 'oops, sorry, we'll do better in future', or does it plan to remove those staff members who have demosnstrated total bias and lack of professionalism?'' Mr Helme noted.
''How long is it going to continue to fail to meet legal requirements and sink lower in terms of credibility?'' he continued.
Chair of the supervisory council Rein Veidemann has told ERR that every member of the council has the right to submit proposals to the agenda, but that Mr Helme's letter and allegations could be seen as a characteristic pressure tactic.
''The council cannot punish people, there is no right or obligation for it to do so,'' Mr Veidemann added.
''Moreover, ERR is a media organisation which has to be politically balanced,'' he said.
''At the same time, there is no metric for this as such, it has to be estimated. ERR has an ethics ombudsman to monitor editorial and staff balance,'' Mr Veidemann continued.
He added that general accusations of imbalance were inadvisable, since these are unfalsifiable and only concrete examples can be discussed.
Head of News and Sport at ERR, Anvar Samost, said on Thursday that journalists at the public broadcaster did their best to comply with journalistic standards at all times.
''In my opinion, we do it well,'' he said.
''Any request for the punishment of a journalist or their removal from the airwaves is inappropriate from the mouths of any politician, not least from a member of the broadcasting supervisory council,'' Mr Samost noted.
ERR News in English recently published an overview of Mr Helme's Deutsche Welle interview with veteran British journalist Tim Sebastian.
Mr Helme's letter (in Estonian) was reproduced by online news portal Delfi here.
Editor: Andrew Whyte