Helme: Trump, Salvini aligned rhetoric with politics, EKRE planning same

EKRE chairman Mart Helme.
EKRE chairman Mart Helme. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

The Estonian Broadcasting Council (RHN), the supervisory board of Estonian Public Broadcasting (ERR), discussed a demand of the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) on Tuesday calling for the "punishment" of certain journalists for allegedly being biased in their work. In an interview with ERR, Mart Helme explained the party's attitude to the media.

Though not all journalists are by default leftists, "a lot of them are, also at ERR" Mr Helme said in an interview with ERR's Toomas Sildam published on Wednesday (link in Estonian).

Asked by the interviewer about EKRE's understanding of the freedom of the press and that of editors, Mr Helme elected to ignore the question and instead to talk about his understanding of the media's responsibility.

Some journalists' work isn't just under par, but belongs taken out with the trash, Mr Helme said. "Ideologically biased, propagandist rage" of the kind some of ERR's employees practice it couldn't be called journalism, Mr Helme said.

Helme: Never mind interview questions, media really lacking basic courtesy

ERR's supervisory board found after discussing EKRE's complaints on Tuesday evening that none of them require any changes to be made to the way things are run. Ethics ombudsman, Tarmu Tammerk, whose position is that of a watchdog for impartiality and balanced reporting at the public broadcaster, has backed the outcome of the meeting.

Where EKRE's issue is not with the journalist personally, at least there can be complaints about how a specific interview is conducted: "These interviews lack elementary courtesy towards the interviewee," Mr Helme finds in this case. "This isn't about questions. It's an attack, it's accusations. This isn't journalism."

His understanding of what journalism is, Mr Helme reiterated, is "completely different". While pointed questions and "sharp" journalism are "okay", "responsibility and politeness" are a condition as well.

Talking to Postimees now matter of individuals, not publication on the whole

Estonia's largest daily, Postimees, has a new editor-in-chief. Peeter Helme, recently promoted, is EKRE chairman Mart Helme's nephew. Asked by ERR's Toomas Sildam whether this changes things, considering that EKRE in the past has refused to grant interviews to Postimees as a whole, Mr Helme was quick to qualify earlier statements, saying that the matter concerns individuals rather than the publication.

"What has this got to do with Peeter? This is about the journalists wanting interviews from us," he said. "If one of them mocks me in an interview, another looks for drunks in the streets to attach them to our torch march, clearly in breach of media ethics, then these people belong to the same lot as [Russian state-owned media agency] Sputnik, or worse," he added.

"And I don't talk to those. I don't have an obligation to do it," Mr Helme said.

EKRE rhetoric to remain the same, get aligned with EKRE government portfolios

Asked what can be expected regarding his party's rhetoric after the confirmation of a potential Centre-EKRE-Isamaa government, Mr Helme pointed to the success of other populists currently in power.

"See, [Lega leader and Italian interior minister] Matteo Salvini hasn't changed his style, and his popularity in Italy is increasing, because his style is now aligned with his actions as minister of the interior," Mr Helme said.

"Donald Trump hasn't changed his style, and he's only becoming more popular and implementing his campaign promises bit by bit. We're planning to do exactly the same."

Editor: Dario Cavegn

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