Incendiary Rhetoric

No Longer Exclusive to the Far-Right in Estonia

14 November 2019

In Estonia, as in elsewhere in Eastern Europe, oligarchs threaten media independence. They have not succeeded – so far.

Earlier reports by #DemocraCE Fellows in Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary suggest that while Russian info-operations tend to get a lot of airtime in national and international media, they are far from the biggest threat to free speech in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe.

From Romania to Hungary, the principal threat to a healthy, critical media comes from national broadcasters bending to the will of increasingly authoritarian governments and from government-supported oligarchs purchasing private publications.

This pattern holds true in Estonia as well.  In 2018, a joint operation between Baltic investigative journalists and BuzzFeed revealed how the website Baltnews was taking orders and money directly from Russian organisations, in particular, Rossiya Segodnya. The site was publishing news on topics that described tensions within the US and the EU (such as conflicts over Greek sovereign debt) and news on the war in Eastern Ukraine.

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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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