Attacking the Fourth Estate

Estonian Journalists Are Facing Numerous Challenges From Government Threats to Media Corporatisation

10 May 2019

The past two months have witnessed an unprecedented series of attacks on freedom of the press in Estonia.

As in the rest of the world, politicians in Estonia have often criticised the press for negative coverage, and, on occasion, tried to steer media institutions in directions more favorable to them.

Photo credit: By Chatham House – Toomas Hendrik Ilves, President of Estonia, CC BY 2.0,

The former president, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, was widely known for his disdain for the press, whom he derisively called “tintla“ (hack writers). In 2013, the then-ruling liberal Reform Party appointed the writer Kaur Kender as editor-in-chief of the publically funded cultural weekly Sirp, a move that was widely interpreted as an attempt to silence a publication known for its criticism of the government.

Both of these cases were roundly condemned, and responses to the Sirp decision led to the resignation of the minister of culture, Rein Lang. But that was 2013, and much has changed since then.

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Aro Velmet

#DemocraCE Fellow. Editor at the publically funded cultural monthly Vikerkaar, partner journal of the Eurozine network. He holds academic posts at the University of Southern California and the University of Oxford.

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