The Estonian Newspapers Association (EALL) is to change both its name and profile, with internet media, magazines and commercial channels Kanal 2 and TV3 also joining the new body.
Mart Raudsaar, director of the EALL, or the Association of Media Companies (Meediaettevõtete Liit) as it will now be known, said that the move comes in response to a recent storm concerning freedom of speech and the press, ERR's online Estonian news reports.
"We stand for the interests of our members in our relations with the state, and we are strong together," Raudsaar wrote in an opinion piece in daily Postimees.
"We also consider it important to develop self-regulation of our members, to train journalists, and to protect press freedoms. If the free press disappears, democracy will also disappear, at the same time as things we thought themselves had been eradicated, like some infectious diseases, reemerge," he continued.
Recent attacks on the media have included statements from leading members of coalition party, the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE), such as finance minister Martin Helme, who said that journalists at public broadcaster ERR who displayed bias in their broadcasts, should be removed from the air. Helme sat on the broadcaster's supervisory council at the time he made his remarks, in April.
Helme's father, Mart, interior minister and deputy prime minister in the new administration, more recently said that ERR's U.S. correspondent, Maria-Ann Rohemäe, had been dealing in fake news during her time in the role, particularly with regard to the Trump administration.
The EALL up to now numbered four national dailies, seven weeklies, 19 regional newspapers, one monthly magazine and four free papers, in its membership.
Kanal 2 belongs to Postimees Grupp, formerly Eesti Meedia, which operates daily Postimees and other outlets. TV3 is owned by Nordic direct broadcast satellite television broadcaster and pay TV operator Viasat (known as All Meedia, in the Baltic States).
ERR chief welcomes move
Board chair at ERR Erik Roose said that while the reforms are welcome, the broadcaster itself would not consider joining, since it comprises commercial media.
"Naturally, however, it is a good thing that the cooperation is expanding in during this difficult time for the press," Roose said, noting that it would benefit all.
Potential cooperation between ERR and the reorganized media union could work in, for instance, the organization of training courses, or the awarding of journalistic prizes.
It could also act as a watchdog on advertising in, for instance, stemming the flow of advertizing revenues to firms on the other side of the Atlantic (eg. Facebook and Google).
"If understanding and success is achieved in this sphere, everyone will benefit. Especially in the area of press independence," Roose continued.
Editor: Andrew Whyte