The participation of Estonian politicians Yana Toom and Mihhail Kõlvart in the program “60 minutes” on Russia’s power group owned television channel Rossija 1 led to a lively discussion in the Estonian media. The case is enough of a suitable incentive to point out three main reasons why such a choice of channels is reprehensible not only to the politicians of the mentioned Keskerakond (Center Political Party), but also to all figures of Estonian public life in general. We also recall other similar cases in recent history.
The participants always find themselves in a context that is detrimental to Estonia
Kremlin television is not proper journalism or a part of the press that works in a balanced way and allows room for different perspectives. It is a propaganda media whose aim is to create and perpetuate narratives suitable for the Kremlin. This type of media has a hostile attitude towards Estonia, which is based on pre-assigned talking points.
Guests or interviewees from Estonia and the Baltics are placed in specific roles on these propaganda channels and their performances are intended to support specific propaganda narratives. The speakers cannot direct or control the context in which their thoughts are placed.
Even if a participant in the Kremlin’s propaganda program has a secret plan to convey reasonable and favorable thoughts about Estonia, it remains a naive illusion. Propastop has not yet encountered a case where participants have managed to confuse the propagandists of our Eastern Neighbor and present a useful narrative about Estonia. At best, a neutrality towards Estonia is maintained by supporting other goals of the Kremlin.
In this case, the opinions of Toom and Kõlvart about vaccines can be used as an example. Regardless of whatever they wanted to say about the vaccines, the Kremlin’s media modified the statements to reflect Estonia’s direct support for the Sputnik V. vaccine (Russian media reviews can be found on the monitoring robot’s Propamon page by searching for stories or keywords for the day).
Participation increases the credibility of the propaganda media
When well-known Estonians participate on the Kremlin’s propaganda channels, it signals to viewers living in Estonia that these channels are equivalent to journalist-independent Russian-language channels. The average viewer cannot tell whether a channel is under Kremlin influence or not. When people they trust appear there, the impression of trust extends to the channel itself. In the end, this will do great damage to Estonia. For example, the great interest of Russian-speaking residents in Sputnik V and their reluctance to other vaccines is directly related to the viewing of the Kremlin’s propaganda channels.
Participation divides Estonia
Appearances on Kremlin television are always accompanied by accusations, disputes and polarization of opinions in the Estonian media. Such an increase in attention is likely to serve the interests of the politician by increasing his reputation. However, it is harmful for Estonia in general to have them be in two camps. Nor will the Estonian information space benefit in any way from the attention and interest that the Kremlin’s propaganda channels receive with the support of local speakers.
In conclusion, Propastop considers the voluntary appearance of all Estonians in the Kremlin’s propaganda channels to be detrimental to Estonia and will always condemn them in the future – no matter how noble the participant’s own intentions and thoughts may be.
Link to this Rossija TV channel on March 15, 2021: Yana Toom’s and Mihhal Kõlvart’s excerpts and Postimees’ summary of the speech.
Stories of Lauri Hussar’s and Andrei Kuzitškin’s appearance as outlined in Eesti Päevaleht.
Yana Toom’s counter article in Eesti Päevaleht, where she justifies her participation.
Similar cases from the Propastop archive:
Mart Helme gave an interview to the propaganda channel in 2019 and was criticized for it.
Pictures: Screenshots of the show.