On June 9, 2020, Propastop wrote about how the official account of ERR’s Russian-language editorial board posts its news on Facebook groups that are maintained by Kremlin flunkies. Propastop called such activities indirect support for anti-Estonian agents and thought it should be stopped. Three groups were discussed: Новости Эстонии (Estonian news), Наш Ласнамяэ/Meie Lasnamäe (Our Lasnamäe) and Выборы в Эстонии (Elections in Estonia). The reason why we consider these and many other groups to be tools of the Kremlin’s soft power can be read here.
The post led to an interesting follow-up discussion in Delfi’s section “False information exposed”, where journalist Martin Laine’s story included the statements of Dmitri Teperik, head of the Center for Defense Studies, and Andreas Ventsel, professor of semiotics. The question under discussion was whether there was a basis for Propastop’s criticism. The experts called such hidden impact groups a threat, but did not agree to offer clear solutions. It was hypothesized that there could be a strategic goal behind ERR’s activities to reach the readership of pro-Kremlin groups by providing them with balanced information. Andrei Kraševski (Andrey Krashevskiy), the head of ERR’s Russian-language editorial office, did not see a problem with such postings at the time.
ERR has finished posting
In any case, the initial post and the subsequent discussion have borne fruit: since the beginning of June, ERR has stopped sharing news in these three pro-Kremlin groups. It seems that their postings were not a cunning strategy to engage the Kremlin, but simply ignorance of the nature and wider impact of its activities.
Although posting from the ERR’s official account no longer takes place, ERR news is still featured in these groups. ERR news is shared in the group Novosti Estonii by its administrator Oleg Nazmutdinov, a member of the Kremlin-related network operating in Estonia, who injects into ERR’s content, ironic and derogatory remarks about Estonia. In a group called Таллиннцы (Tallinners), ERR news is shared alongside posts by the administrator of other pro-Kremlin groups, Oleg Besedin (Oleg Bessedin), who is also connected to the network.
ERR employees continue to post from their accounts
In addition to Bessedin, there are other ERR news distributors in the Таллиннцы group, such as users named Andrey Krashevsky, Dina Malova and Sergei Mikhailov. The connection between Kraševski and ERR is obvious, but Malova and Mikhailov also work in the ERR editorial office. The possibility that the mailers are other individuals with the same names of ERR employees instead is quite unlikely.
It is natural for employees to share their employer’s materials from private accounts. However, as this is done in pro-Kremlin groups, Propastop believes it is the equivalent of posting there from an official ERR account. Employees simply act as covert influencers for national broadcasting.
Propastop’s rating of the situation has not changed; we formulated it in the original post:
The actions normalize the messages of pro-Kremlin activists. If the Kremlin’s propaganda is day by day alongside the news of Estonian national broadcasting, ERR’s credible reputation will also expand to them. For ordinary members of the group, Baltnews or Sputnik are as credible as Estonian National Broadcasting. The notion that a portion are blatant propaganda portals and another is honest and serious press is not supported by this juxtaposition.
Sharing ERR content can also be one of the reasons for the large membership of groups. Consequently, ERR’s reputation for reliable information is attracting readers to the hidden agenda of the Kremlin’s propagandists.
According to Propastop, the ERR must understand the wider consequences of its actions, take responsibility for them and end indirect support for the Kremlin’s influence.
Pictures: screenshots from Propastop’s post office and Tallinn FB group