The Kremlin’s censoring of the coronavirus is a threat to Estonia


Keeping a regular eye on Russian media, Propastop has been amazed for weeks about their passiveness during this coronavirus. The media from our eastern neighbour gives the impression that the epidemic is affecting only far off countries that cannot control the virus due to their incompetence. In contrast, in Russia everything is relatively calm and under control.

As an example, we bring you last Friday’s screenshot from the home page, Russia’s most popular portal. The news focuses on foreign topics, the national epidemic being touched upon indirectly, through the cancelation of exams and the postponing of military training exercises. This portal does not give the impression that, one of the biggest crises in recent history is even happening.

At the same time, Friday was a day when the number of people infected with the coronavirus in Russia rose by more than 200 and gave a new total of over a 1000 infected. There is enough to write about but all the news on this topic is hidden within the interior pages of the paper.

In recent days, there has been increasing articles written on the attempts by the Kremlin’s authorities to conceal data. Postimees’ fact control summed up Putin’s coronavirus lies; you can read about the topic in the Finnish as well as the USA press. There has been less writing about the coronavirus censorship in our eastern neighbour’s media, but it is clear that the Kremlin has given instructions to cover up the situation. Read, how this control mechanism works.

Why do we consider the Kremlin’s censorship of the coronavirus as a threat to Estonia?

A media usage survey of Russian-speaking people in Estonia earlier this year indicates that about a fifth, or 70,000 people, get all their information from Russian state media. The Kremlin channels also play an important role in the information menus of a third of the Russian-speaking population, more than 100,000 individuals. Consequently, it can be said that 170,000 people, or roughly half of the Russian-speaking people living in Estonia get an untrue picture of the situation through the Kremlin media.

This distorted perception of the crisis means that the situation is considered to be much better than it really is. Emergency requirements are considered excessive, quarantine and contact avoidance negligible. The result is behaviour that, contributes to the spread of the infection.

Propastop has not yet found statistics to verify the hypothesis that the number of Russian-speaking people who violate quarantine and become ill is above the average. If this is indeed the case, the discussion about Russian propaganda channels is no longer academic – their content is a direct threat to Estonian people.

Fortunately, the recipe for solving the problem has been written long ago. The teaching of the Estonian language must be promoted, the development of local Russian-language media must be supported and access to the Kremlin’s media channels must be prevented.

Photos: Alison Curtis / Flickr / CC; screenshot.