In regarding the IFJ press release
from 19th of December 2019 “Estonian government threatens journalists with criminal proceedings“
It was brought to our attention, that IFJ has posted a condemning press release about Estonian Anti-money Laundering Authority's Finance Intelligence Unit’s decision to inform individuals, who have an employment contract or employment relationship with Russia Today, that it is in against Estonian law. The context of this decision is the Estonian legal order to implement the EU's sanctions policy which has been imposed on a number of citizens of the Russian Federation, who have supported the aggression against Ukraine.
We understand well your (IFJ) stance of protecting all journalists no matter, what the quality of their work is, and also your approach to Sputnik as to a media channel. But at the same time, compared to Brussels and rest of Western Europe we have experienced for a long time and continue to experience much closer the actual methods used in Russian information warfare and how Russian propaganda hides behind the mask of journalism.
Hence, we take a different viewpoint on defending Sputnik and its employees. In our assessment such statements diminish freedom of press and the status of the profession, journalist, because it and its umbrella organisation do not serve public interest as journalistic channel should, but only the interest of the Russian state. If someone would like to compare Sputnik and Russia Today to Voice of America or Radio Free Europe, then we would like to remind, that these never presented themselves as news agencies and hid their purpose, goals and interests they represent.
Sputnik does not represent Russian language journalism in Estonia and is not news agency, but a propagandistic media channel. Such channels use the basis of democracy, the freedom of speech and freedom of press for demolishing the same democracy with half-truths and false information. Its employees, with or without Estonian citizenship, do not work following journalistic principles and code of ethics. The extend the courtesy of journalistic privileges to anyone who names itself a journalist degrades the professional journalists’ position in the society.
Sputnik and Russia Today have been outed as for information warfare channels in European Parliament’s report. Sputnik has been revealed as propaganda channel by New York Times, Foreign Policy Magazine, EU vs Disinfo and others. Only last year Facebook closed over 350 pages related to Sputnik. UK’s Ofcom has fined Russia Today for false information.
We must also not forget that over last two decades the state, which power stands behind Sputnik and Russia Today, has had several journalists and human rights activists murdered. The actions have been taken place also outside Russian territory. While complaining about suppression and restrictions against itself by Estonian authorities, Sputnik has never and nowhere spoken up for killed and oppressed Russian journalists.
We do not agree with statement that Estonian authorities are threatening any journalists with criminal proceedings, as Sputnik is not journalism. Even if Estonian journalism and journalists do feel under stronger pressure from verbal threats of certain politicians and some interference from media owners, in principle Estonian journalists and journalism is free and independent. We are concerned that IFJ and EFJ might be used in the information warfare to legitimize non-journalistic, propaganda channels as journalism.
The board of Estonian Association of Journalists