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Estonia: anonymity on the Internet


In Estonia, as elsewhere, the Internet is forcing traditional media increasingly to publish online. The online editions of print media offer not only written contributions but also a lot of audio-visual material and live transmissions. Users are increasingly turning their backs on the print media in favour of the Internet, as is evident from steadily declining print runs. Online commentaries are a hotly debated issue in Estonia.

Online comments on portal Delfi.
(Screenshot)


Some media do not moderate the commentaries and allow users to express their opinions anonymously. This has led to a situation where many previously active opinion leaders no longer dare to publish their opinions, because the tone of the anonymous commentaries is often full of hatred. The online portal Delfi, in particular, is campaigning to retain the right to comment anonymously and has even taken the matter to the European Court of Human Rights.

Estonia has a variety of Russian-language media, including dailies, weeklies, online portals and radio channels. In November 2014 the government also decided to start a Russian television programme. The takeover of the newspaper Postimees by Eesti Meedia in 2013 drew public attention, because this meant the complete withdrawal of the Norwegian concern Schibsted, former publisher of Postimees, from the Estonian market. Eesti Meedia belongs to former Postimees chief editor Mart Kadastik and the pharmaceuticals entrepreneur Margus Linnamäe, who also bought the news agency Baltic News Service in 2014.

Shortly after the acquisition of Postimees by Eesti Meedia the parliament discussed the pharmacy law. The newspaper showed conspicuous support for pharmaceutical monopolies.

A further bombshell hit the Estonian media the same year when the Estonian minister of culture suddenly appointed the scandal writer Kaur Kender as chief editor of the state-financed cultural newspaper Sirp overnight. The government intervention in the newspaper's personnel policy sparked a major protest, eventually resulting in the minister of culture's resignation.

Press freedom has been anchored in the Estonian constitution since the country became independent in 1991.

Press Freedom Index:

Reporters without Borders: 10th place (2015)
Freedom House: 15th place (2014)

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