Estonia has been ranked 11th among 180 countries in the 2019 World Press Freedom Index by Reporters Without Borders, having improved its ranking compared with 2018 by one spot.
According to Reporters Without Borders, journalists in Estonia are working in a broadly favourable environment, but media ownership is still highly concentrated.
“As newsrooms are operating under increasing pressure from commercial entities, the autonomy of journalists is in decline. Recently, the owner of one of the two dominant private media corporations, who is also conservative Isamaa party member, was criticised for direct interference in the editorial process. He had personally appointed leading staff and promoted a conservative worldview in a new newspaper section he opened before the parliamentary elections,” the 2019 index pointed out, referring to the most-read daily newspaper Postimees and its owner, Margus Linnamäe.
The Estonian media has also written about Linnamäe’s desire to make Postimees a flagship of conservative media and to that end, there have been many changes among the staff of the newspaper.
Russian journalists are disregarded
Reporters Without Borders also points out that even though one third of the population in Estonia are Russian speaking, the local Russian speaking journalists’ needs are somewhat disregarded. “All of the biggest newsrooms have a Russian language section where Russian speaking journalists work, but their audiences are small and therefore, they struggle to make themselves heard. They simply have to compete with powerful Russian Federation’s media outlets, mainly TV stations.”
“Local Russian speakers are reluctant to follow content produced in Estonia. The Estonian government has tried to tackle this issue by creating a Russian language public broadcast TV station ETV+ in 2015, but their audience is still smaller than any other Russian TV station. There are very few Russian language journalists working alongside Estonian journalists. The country’s most prominent journalism awards, like the Bonnier award for investigative journalism and The Journalist of the Year award, have never been won by Russian language journalists.”
Norway has the freest press in the world
The freest press in the world, according to Reporters Without Borders, is in Norway. It is followed by Finland, Sweden and the Netherlands. Latvia is ranked 24th and Lithuania 30th. Russia is ranked 149th.
Reporters Without Borders is an international non-profit, non-governmental organisation that promotes and defends freedom of information and freedom of the press. The organisation, with a head office in Paris, France, has consultant status at the United Nations.