The Centre Party has been ordered to pay €6,000 to the City of Tallinn for infringing electoral advertising regulations in the run-up to the 2017 local elections.
An appeal decision made by the second-tier Tallinn Circuit Court in March, upholding an order made by the Supervisory Committee on Party Financing (ERJK) in June 2018 was thrown out by the Supreme Court, BNS reports, meaning the party must pay the fine.
Five articles which appeared in the Stolitsa newspaper, the Russian-language version of the City of Tallinn's Pealinn publication, were found to constitute electoral advertising in the period leading up to the 2017 local elections.
"The newspaper Stolitsa is owned by the City of Tallinn and is published with financial assets of the local government... Municipal media may ... disclose information about local government events, which undoubtedly can include the activities of political parties and their election promises prior to local government elections. However, in the present case, the decisive factor is the lack of political balance, neutrality and impartiality of the newspaper Stolitsa as well as the content of the specific writings," the Circuit Court had found.
"Both the nature of the interview questions and their publication in a substantial volume in the same newspaper just a short time before the local elections leaves no doubt to any reasonable bystander that the interviews created a privileged position for the appellant for the elections," the court went on.
The original amount the ERJK ordered the Center Party to return to the city stood at €6,071.04.
The ERJK said the cost of publication of ads promoting the Centre Party constituted the forbidden donation.
The administrative court found that the order made by the ERJK was legitimate and thus there were no grounds to annul it.
The court added that without doubt, the articles published at the expense of the city put the Centre Party in a more advantageous position compared with other parties, as the party then had to spend less money on its own advertising before the elections.
"The benefit has been granted to support the appellant's [Centre Party's] activities from the budget resources of the city of Tallinn, and consequently is a donation of a legal person, which is prohibited," the court said.
Editor: Andrew Whyte