Urmas Reitelmann, the chairman of the far-right EKRE party’s council and a member of the supervisory board of the Estonian Public Broadcasting has in a social media post called two TV hosts “sodomites”; politicians and the chairman of the supervisory board call for his resignation.
Urmas Reitelmann, a member of the far-right, populist Estonian Conservative People’s Party, also known as EKRE, and one of the party’s MPs, wrote in a Facebook post: “Ringvaade, hosted by two sodomites, dripped of anger and disappointment over the endurance of the government and was spiced up with incontinent gay propaganda. A chemically clean breaking of the public broadcasting law. Further, comrade Tralla and KGB rat Kristjan, also known as Toomas Sildam, gave their best on AK. It’s not hard to imagine what kind of dirt will start flying before the referendum. Some political commissioners still haven’t realised that Estonia has a new, more or less nationalist government. Try to get used to it.”
Ringvaade is a political talk show on the Estonian Public Broadcasting, hosted by journalists Marko Reikop and Grete Lõbu, who have already told the Estonian media that they’re considering suing Reitelmann for his statement.
AK, an acronym for Aktuaalne Kaamera, is a daily news programme on the public broadcasting. “Comrade Tralla” would be the public broadcasting’s journalist, Johannes Tralla, and Toomas Sildam is a legendary Estonian journalist and the former PR adviser to the previous Estonian president, Toomas Hendrik Ilves.
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Reitelmann, in his post, was talking about the fact that the governing coalition of EKRE, the Centre Party and the centre-right Isamaa endured a recent crisis over the interior minister Mart Helme’s (EKRE) homophobic comments. His social media post came only hours after the coalition had signed a declaration, saying it was “unequivocally opposed to inciting hatred. We want to campaign focusing on substantive arguments and worldviews, avoiding offensive and threatening rhetoric and behaviour.”
The vice chair of the Estonian parliament’s culture committee, Heidy Purga (the Reform Party), told the Estonian media that her party will start the proceedings to recall Reitelmann from the public broadcasting’s supervisory board.
“There can’t be any justification to the manner of speech that deeply offend the employees of the public broadcasting, when only hours before the Estonian government has signed a statement, promising to avoid offending people,” Purga told Postimees, the largest daily newspaper in Estonia.
The chairman of the public broadcasting’s supervisory board, Rein Veidemann, said he will suggest to EKRE that Reitelmann should be replaced.
Does this hate speech characterise EKRE as a whole?
“Not only is he a member of the public broadcasting’s supervisory board, he’s also the chairman of the EKRE council. We have to think whether such hate speech and name calling characterise the party as a whole. Just yesterday they signed a paper where they promised to avoid any hate speech,” Veidemann said, according to Postimees.
Urmas Paet, an Estonian MEP, commented on Facebook that prime minister Jüri Ratas has created the support for his government based on such members of the parliament. “This horrendous text by a member of the public broadcasting’s supervisory board who represents the governing coalition speaks for itself.”
The leader of EKRE, Martin Helme, who also holds the portfolio of the finance minister, however told the public broadcasting that Reitelmann’s post did not represent offensive words, saying it was a relative term. When asked whether Reitelmann’s post was nonetheless offensive, Helme said it depended on a person’s point of view. “I imagine that those people referred to felt bad, concerned. This is relatively likely to be the case.”
Before entering the politics, Reitelmann himself worked as a journalist. From 1981-1991, he worked as a news anchor for Aktuaalne Kaamera.
Cover: Urmas Reitelmann. Photo by Riigikogu.