ERR Head: Press freedoms at public broadcaster not under threat

ERR board chair Erik Roose.
ERR board chair Erik Roose. Source: Kairit Leibold/ERR

Press freedoms at public broadcaster ERR are not under threat, board chair Erik Roose said on Saturday.

In a longer interview with ERR's Toomas Sildam, Mr Roose was speaking in the light of the departure of journalist Ahto Lobjakas. Mr Lobjakas is stepping down from presenting his politics show, Olukorrast riigis, after four years. On Saturday, Mr Lobjakas stated on his social media page that the decision was his alone, made primarily on the issue of what he saw as a need to employ self-censorship, and that he had not been fired. The latter statement reiterated remarks made by Raadio 2 editor-in-chief Kristo Rajasaar, the channel which broadcasts Olukorrast riigis, on Friday.

The following is an excerpt from the interview with Erik Roose.

''The emergence of the topic of press freedoms in recent days requires further clarification on the work and principles at ERR. Naturally, the ERR board keeps track of our broadcasts and output, but designing a show, including choice of presenter, is in the hands of each editor''.

''The post-election developments have put pressure on many of our employees, but this does not diminish the importance of criticism or freedom of expression in their day-to-day work''.

''ERR continues to place a high importance on critical analysis of all topical issues, and programs of this natre will continue to be broadcast on Raadio 2 and other channels''.

''Ahto Lobjakas' decision to step down from his role as a broadcaster arises from his own personal wishes. The board has kept itself up-to-date with queries and feedback received across the spectrum of programs aired; however, discussion and analysis is an everyday aspect of the press and its work''.

''This has been carried out by journalists under the guidance of journalistic ethics and the responsibility of editors of the shows in question. Evaluations of ERR's activities must be across the board on all our programs, not aimed at undermining or threatening press freedoms in respect of one individual's departure or recruitment. Freedom of the press is not traded on a dime at ERR''.

''Again I repeat: There is neither, nor will there be, a threat to press freedoms or journalistic independence, at least so far as the public broadcaster goes. We comprehend the high degree of interest that public figures and leaders take in our work, but as board chair at ERR, I am reassured in placing my trust in our editorial and program management, and do not in any way question their editorial policies''.

Mr Roose's full interview with Toomas Sildam is to be published (in Estonian) on ERR's news portal on Monday.

Erik Roose was appointed ERR board chair in 2017, having worked in directorial roles at private sector media corporation Eesti Meedia (now Postimees Grupp) for around 18 years, and before that, as director of Ekspress Media.

Editor: Andrew Whyte

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