Estonian PM: situation with freedom of the press has not changed over the year

Õiguslikult segases olukorras peavad ajalehed olema ettevaatlikud, sest netis vabalt kättesaadavast infost võib end solvatuna tunda ükskõik kes, ükskõik kus.

PHOTO: Toomas Huik

Estonian Prime Minister Andrus Ansip said that Estonia 's fall in the world press freedom index by eight places did not mean deterioration of the situation and fall of the index by eight places was in connection with a change in the method of drawing up the index.

At the government press conference on Thursday Ansip criticized the comment given toBNS by managing director of the Estonian Newspapers Union, Mart Raudsaar. Among other things he justified it by legislative drafting.

"I don't want to bring up a row with the press once again, but if the government is attacked via the press, then someone must protect the government. For some reason it is believed that if something good happens in Estonia it happens independently of the government but if something bad happens, the government is always at fault," Ansip said.

The prime minister found that it was not possible to agree with Raudsaar's statement that deterioration of the Estonian position in the Freedom of the Press index was among other things linked with the hate crime act now being prepared.

"The hate crime topic comes, as we know, from a European Union directive. If the directive is transposed in the member countries, its influence in all member countries is uniform and hardly can this in some way change the distribution of places in the Freedom of the Press list. For me it is a totally incomprehensible assertion," the prime minister said. He added that at present the so-called hate crimes act had not yet been drawn up even as bill.

Ansip said that neither was it possible to take as serious the assertion that politicians statements concerning usage of the press influenced Estonia's placing in the freedom of the press list. The prime minister said that here statements by the Reform Party member of parliament, Igor Grazin, in which he criticized usager of journalists of the the National Broadcasting Company had been born in mind.

Ansip did not agree with Raudsaar's statement that last year there was a lot of talk about the need to set up a new press regulator. The prime minister pointed out that it was not an  issue pertaining to Estonia alone but all member countries of the European Union.

"I believe that it indicates at a report commissioned by Vivian Reding drawn up [Latvian ex-president] Vaira Vike- Freiberga.  The report speaks about a regulator of the press but one report ordered by the Commission is naturally not a directive yet. We do not know what will become later about the report.

The prime minister said that Estonia 's fall in the world press index was due to a change in the method as in the last index the organization that compiles it, Reporters Without Borders, took into consideration the media publication owners' concentration.

"The concentration of media publication owners was not taken into consideration in earlier tables and Estonia 's fall by eight places from third to 11th was directly connected with it. There is no reason to fear anything about the Estonian press freedom, in fact the situation of freedom of the press is exactly the same as is was a year ago. I wanted to put it right, as otherwise people will be reiterating the lie," Ansip said.

Mart Raudsaar, managing director of the Estonian Newspapers Union, finds that if the freedom of the Estonian press showed contraction, there was reason for concern.

Raudsaar told BNS that there were two reasons why Estonia fell in the world press freedom chart. "One of the components which they take into consideration is legislative drafting," Raudsaar said referring to amendments to the Penal Code, which pertain to the instigation of hatred.

Another possible reason why Estonia had fallen in the press freedom chart, was the independence of the media, which had been attacked several times recently, "One is the much talked about Estonian Television hosts manner of speech - what they can say what they shouldn't say," Raudsaar said.

As a third point Raudsaar mentioned self-regulation of the media in addition to the above. "Recently there has been quite a lot of talk about the need of setting up a new media regulator and I am not sure whether the idea suggested would mean setting up an independent media regulator," Raudsaar said.

The issue of a new regulator, Raudsaar said, was pan-European and thus it was not possible to be sure how much it would influence the place of Estonia in the world press freedom chart. "When I looked at the list I did not see that the Nordic countries had fallen there significantly," Raudsaar said.

"In my mind the main issue for Estonia is whether we are moving in the direction of the Nordic countries or we are moving away from them", Raudsaar said. "It is not yet too bad but if the tendency continues there is a lot to be concerned about," Raudsaar said.

Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontiers - RSF), an international organization based in Paris, Wednesday placed Estonia in the 11th place among 179 countries, eight places lower than the year before.

In the index published last year Estonia and the Netherlands were equal in the 3rd and 4th places.

In the RSF index Finland takes the first place, with the Netherlands second and Norway third. Eritrea is in the last, 179th place, North Korea is in the 178th and Turkmenistan in the 177th place.

In the index published in 2011-2012 Estonian was level with the Netherlands 3 to 4, in the chart for 2010 level with Ireland 9 to 10, in 2009 it was sixth, in 2008 in the RSF press freedom index Estonia was even with Finland and Ireland 4 to 6, and in 2007 level with Slovakia 3 to 4.