Sputnik versus Sputnik

02.03.2021

We are publishing the opinion story of journalist Pavel Ivanov, which points to the similarities between the two Sputniks, the vaccine and the propaganda publication.

We are also starting a new section “Opinion Story”, where you can also find your own text. To do this, send it to propastop@gmail.com.

Sputnik versus Sputnik
Pavel Ivanov

The Sputnik V vaccine promotion campaign has taken on the dimensions of an information war, and there are plenty of reasons to say this. A situation has also arisen in Estonia where some Russian-speaking people prefer to be vaccinated with Sputnik V, ignoring the need for a general vaccination. Unfortunately, tensions are being compounded by possible side effects and supply availability associated with vaccines produced elsewhere in the world, of which we have all been informed.

Local messaging room
In this situation, it is important to monitor which messages are transmitted by the local Russian-language media. It is not important to praise or slander one or another vaccine – it is important to vaccinate and follow the established rules.

The newspaper MK Estonija published diaries of people who were vaccinated with Sputnik V. An interesting step that is relatively pointless due to the lack of this vaccine in Estonia.

The logic and the practice of the pandemic year shows that the most reliable sources of information are doctors; this is also the case among the Russian-speaking population. Good examples are Irina Dontšenko and Arkadi Popov. The Russian-language media offers messages also from other doctors, which has recently focused more on vaccination. However, it does not always work.

Last week, rus.postimees.ee published a video argument between two respected doctors, Member of Parliament Viktor Vassiljev and well-known pediatrician Adik Levin. Unfortunately, the audience, which is hungry for explanations and reassuring information, got a good deal of demagoguery. Dr. Levin demanded the immediate intervention of the President and Prime Minister including their personal contribution towards the purchase of vaccines from Russia and China. Argument: people are dying…

Dr. Vassilyev parried his colleague’s demagoguery with his own: do we have to bow down to Putin? There were no arguments. Just as there was no sensible information, that would give the people food for constructive thinking.

Similarity between the Sputniks
On the Raadio4 show “Teorija vbrosa”, I promised a speculative comparison of the two Sputniks – between a media channel and a vaccine. In the case of the media channel Sputnik, some Russian-speaking people accepted the news of the closure of the channel as “наших бьют” or “ours get beaten”. However, the news of the new beginning of the channel did not really interest anyone.

It seems to me that Sputnik V is the same story. As long as this vaccine is not available in Estonia, it is considered “наших не жалуют” or “ours are bullied”. However, if Sputnik V receives a supply permit from the European Union and arrives in Estonia, interest in it will also disappear. Then there is a choice, and the overall number of supporters of vaccination will certainly increase. Nevertheless, that is just a guess.

Advice for Russian language channels
Propastop has written about the need for a national over disclaimer. It seems to me that a national directional indicator is also needed, including for the Russian-language media. It would give advice on how to be more effective in communication, how not to reproduce demagoguery or irrelevant information. I understand that I can express the outrage of my colleagues, because we have an independent press that is free to operate. However, every freedom comes with responsibilities, especially in times of crisis.

Photo: Sander Ilvest /Postimees /Scanpix