A Minister in the Estonian Government is cooperating with Putin’s propaganda channel


The Estonian media noticed last week the fact that Mart Helme, the Estonian Minister of the Interior had given an exclusive interview to the Kremlin propaganda channel, Baltnews in early July. It was published on the Baltnews YouTube channel on July 11th and released again with a new format on the website on the 12th of July.

Helme’s interview, in which he was titled as the Assistant Prime Minister has received much attention in the Kremlin media, it highlights Helme’s various thoughts: „Estonia announces that there is no threat from Russia“ Ren.tv, „Estonia’s minister of the interior does not see any threat from Russia“ Izvestija, „Estonian nationalists want to cooperate with Russia“, Lenta. The interview has also been released in the same way in Parlamentskaja Gazeta, Gazeta.ru, RIA, Sputnik etc.

What is wrong with the interview?
Propaganda channels are not real media, which are subject to ethical standards, but pseudo-media, where the content is adapted to express the channel owner’s propagandistic goals. It actually does not make much difference what the interviewee says, his words will be modified to suit the context of Kremlin propaganda anyway. In the case of Helme’s interview, it is not clear whether the statement about an absence of threat from Russia is the official position of the Estonian Government or the personal views of the Minister of the Interior. For example when commenting to ERR about his interview, he still pointed out the existing hostility from our Eastern neighbour.

These type of channels have previously caused so much damage that in Estonia, the Government Communication Office has developed recommendations aimed at avoiding communication with them. „ We don’t offer pseudo-channels the ability to produce material and stories. We are trying not to contribute to the increase and spread of these channels and we are clearly opposed to the promotion of hostile influencing and propaganda under the umbrella of freedom of the press,“ said Urmas Seaver, Director of Government Communications in January 2019. According to him, these type of channels such as Sputnik and RIA Novosti are publications of the Rossija Segodnja group.

Baltnews is totally a propaganda channel

As we have written in the past, Baltnews is a portal that publicly announced that it is owned by the Russian government media management group, Rossija Segodnja (Rossiya Segodnya or Russia Today) , just like RT and Sputnik. The fact that Baltnews is the voice of the Kremlin has been written by various Estonian publications for years and should not be unknown to any Estonian official. An indication of its complicity with propaganda is the fact that Latvia closed access to Baltnews.lv last week. The move was justified by the fact that Dmitri Kisseljov, the head of Rossija Segodnya is on the EU sanctioned list of Russian persons.

Cases where interviews with the Kremlin propaganda media have led to various problems in the past and many have received a lot of attention in the Estonian press:

  • To date, Baltnews has interviewed the Tallinn Mayor, Mikhail Kõlvart and Edgar Savisaar.
  • In February 2017, a scandal broke out about a Sputnik interview with Mailis Reps. The facts of the interview were misinterpreted and caused much confusion.
  • In the same year, „the Anastassia case“ had a website propaganda message added to the words of the woman who was interviewed by life.ru.
  • in 2015, Darja Saar , the editor in chief of ETV+ at the time, gave an interview to the Kremlin TV station Rossija, which gave the impression that the new station was a mouth piece for the nation of Estonia.

Pictures: Screenshots of videos and articles referenced in the story.