Western press front line from Estonia


The Baltic nations are solidly getting the reputation as front line, battle zone countries with the latest of many bricks being set in that wall on the 23rd of July when the Dutch portal website, De Correspondent issued Italian photojournalist, Tomaso Clavarino’s reportage on the paramilitary organizations of the Baltic nations, focusing on the children of the Baltic’s training for war.

The story had the heading „ On the edges of Europe are children prepared for war against Russia „with the piece showing photos and text how by the Russian border the children and youth of the Baltic nations are training for war against Russia. The Postimees has written several pieces on the process used in Estonia and further developments of the story therefore we do not need to repeat it. Thanks to the activity of the Postimees journalists, the original text of the heading has been greatly modified and now states, „ Children on the edge of Europe are scared of Russia. This is why they are training to fight“.

Regardless of looking at the photo report as a whole or the photos and text separately, attention is on the set focus of children training to attack Russia.

Of the reportage’s 25 pictures, 7 show children or youths with weapon like objects. The most prominent of the photos was chosen as the opening image, a picture where children are running over an empty highway with weapon replicas. Among the story’s photos is a picture where children in civilian clothes are lined up in drill formation, emphasizing the main characters of the story’s focus – children.

The story’s text and captions clearly sets the desired message and builds a framework. The incidents involving Crimea in 2014 are referenced at the beginning of the report and then it goes on to talk about the growth of popularity in volunteer paramilitary organizations throughout all three Baltic nations.

A quote in an interview given by the Defence Minister of Lithuania in April to the Guardian is brought out with the original long text being cut and a short portion only being shown, where the Minister says: „ Russia is a threat to us.“

The text adds a statement from a Wilson centre researcher, Michale Kofman: „ the youth are easily influenced by ideas and programs on nationalism, most assuredly nationalism will now become stronger in Europe. “

The text is in the centre of the framework with words like: fear, danger and threat as well the growth of nationalism, which is repeatedly mentioned. It is repeated constantly that the children are underage as well as in the text when the caption reads the children’s age as (Arvis (14), 15-year-old Emma, 17-year-old Erik.) This all leads us to only think that there exists and are currently being trained child soldiers.

Propagandist, scandalmonger or useful idiot?

This type of forced focus makes you wonder about the purpose of the story. Providing nothing happens by chance, it would be interesting to know what it is.

The author of the story, Tomaso Clavario is an Italian freelance photojournalist who claims on his homepage, that he has worked with editorials such as La Stampa, Vanity Fair, Corriere della Sera and La Republica.  Thanks to the help of different scholarships, he has photographed Africa a great deal and has been recognized for his work there.

When conducting a search on him, the co-work with the many different publications that he talks about does not surface but his work with the Russian media concern, Russia Today does come to light. Thanks to the Postimees we can read that the author originally wanted to come out with the story in the Italian weekly L’espresso as well as the daily, Corriere della Sera. The letter addressed to the Estonian Defence League stated that Newsweek was doing the piece.

Eventually the photo reportage ends up on the Dutch portal website, De Correspondent. The publication, which was created September 2013 with joint funding. According to Wikipedia the story has been viewed by almost 50,000 readers and due to internet website popularity it has gained an Aleksa ranking place of 76 610.  In comparison, Postimees.ee website is ranked 6327. As well as, amazon.com website being in 11. position.

The story gains attention in the media of the Baltic nations and it is used as the basis of stories in the local Russian propaganda media lapdogs of Sputnik and Baltnews. As of the 9th of August, the story had not yet circulated in the Russian propaganda machine although the author did gain attention in the Italian media when Tomaso Clavarino came out with a statement that he has received a death threat from Estonia and has asked the Italian government to deal with it. These developments makes us speculate, that this saga has not ended yet.

The editors of Propastop do not want to give an appraisal on the intentions of this story. The story is built up clearly to create a scandal, although the limited circulation of the report as well as the overlooking of the story by the Russian propaganda media tells us we are dealing with more of a scandal-seeking individual rather than a propagandist. The Baltic nations have recently been in the foreign media’s area of greater interest thanks to Russian-NATO active opposition being reported in the news. This brings all types of interest to the Baltic nations with requests for scandalous pieces happening more frequently. The Eesti Päevaleht wrote about foreign interest in Estonian themes in August.

Mikk Salu wrote extensively in Eesti Ekspress at the beginning of 2017 about Estonia becoming a front line nation, he wrote: „ Already for a couple of months Estonia has been overrun by a previously unheard of huge amount of foreign journalists. They are not interested in Skype, Estonian brand or E-citizenship. They are in the woods looking for Defence League members, or are at Defence Forces exercises, interrogating American soldiers at Tapa and questioning Estonian politicians. They are looking for a war. “

In this theme, Priit Hõbemägi writes of his experiences in Eesti Express, how an American journalist asked him as an expert to take part in a documental film about truthfulness and facts in newspaper stories and then was surprised by the suggestion that they start the film at the previous site of the Bronze soldier, Tõnismäe. This suggestion forced Hõbemägi to renege on the meeting and make the following conclusions: „ I do not know if this was an attempt to use me in a provocation or did I just imagine a conspiracy theory. Still, in this propaganda war it is better to be scared than regret it later. Because after the fact no one can help, you and you are a fool in front of the whole world. “

Propastop joins the suggestion in Priit Hõbemägi’s article, think it over many times before acting on any questionable situations, but keep a cool head so as not to become a victim of paranoia. We also suggest you re-read our March posting about how to assist in mitigating the reputation as a frontline nation.

Photos: Screenshots from De Correspondent website.