On Tuesday's broadcast of ETV's "Esimene stuudio," coalition Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) chairman and Minister of the Interior Mart Helme accused ERR's U.S. correspondent Maria-Ann Rohemäe of "deceiving and lying" to Estonians for the past two and a half years. These accusations are slanderous and insulting, wrote Anvar Samost, editor-in-chief of ERR's online news and sports portals, and Peep Kala, editor-in-chief of ERR's current affairs programming, in a public statement published Wednesday.
"The Minister of the Interior's claim that ERR's correspondent has 'deceived and lied for two and a half years' is unacceptably insulting of both the specific journalist in question as well as Estonian Public Brodcasting as a journalistic organization with high standards," Samost and Kala wrote in their statement. "For several years, Maria-Ann Rohemäe has ensured operational and objective coverage of events in the U.S., all while being the only permanent foreign correspondent reporting news from there to Estonia.
"The aforementioned accusations are all the more serious due to the fact that they were made live on Estonia's most-watched television channel by a minister of the Republic of Estonia and chairman of a large political party," they continued.
"We confirm that ERR's editorial teams very strictly follow the highest standards and best practices of journalism, and in doing so are an example to the whole of Estonian media," Samost and Kala wrote. "As editors-in-chief, we will stand to ensure that, public defamation and pressure notwithstanding, ERR's journalists can continue doing their work as professionally as before."
Helme: Rohemäe lied to us about Trump
Tuesday night's edition of "Esimene stuudio" saw host Andres Kuusk host Helme together with Social Democratic Party (SDE) candidate for MEP, former Minister of Foreign Affairs and Former Estonian Ambassador to the U.S. Marina Kaljurand.
In the middle of defending French National Rally politician Marine Le Pen, who visited Estonia this week and met with politicians from EKRE and other right-wing and nationalist political parties ahead of the European Parliament election, Helme brought up ERR's Washington-based permanent U.S. correspondent.
"Listen, for two and a half years we have heard how — and by the way, Maria-Ann Rohemäe has deceived and lied to us from the U.S. for two and a half years —" Helme said.
Kuusk intervened, saying he would defend her.
"Go ahead," the EKRE chairman said, before continuing, "— how [U.S. President Donald] Trump is [Russian President Vladimir] Putin's stooge. [Special Prosecutor Robert] Mueller investigated and tried to prove how Russia manipulated everything, how Russia made Trump president. Listen, knock it off! This is hysteria; this is a lie."
Kaljurand, Helme and Kuusk all spoke at once as Kuusk attempted to get the conversation back on track again, commenting, "I'll also say this: Maria is a fantastic journalist."
"Only that she has lied to us about Trump," Helme retorted.
Editor: Aili Vahtla