Five years of Estonian fact-checking


Fact-checking has always been a close and dear issue for Propastop’s editorial staff. We have contributed to the birth and development of various fact-checking initiatives in Estonia, talked about the need for independent fact-checking and called on several organizations to launch it with their teams.

In May 2016, the Propastop fake-detector was released, which unfortunately remained a one-time undertaking and was ahead of its time. In September 2016, we called for the first time to launch independent fact-checking at various Estonian organizations. At that time, it was the Center for International Defense Studies, whose director Jüri Luik had stated at the Opinion Festival that the narrative of “where, why and when” is gone from Social media news and tweets on Twitter have influenced politics without any basis for their tweets. We then wrote: ‘Checking the facts and refuting false allegations are the most important actions possible against propaganda. We have previously proposed finding a national watchdog-ombudsman who would operatively refute false information. ”

In September 2017, in cooperation with the Estonian Debate Society, Delfi and Eesti Päevaleht launched the Fact-check section, which analyzed the statements of politicians before and up to local government elections. After the elections, this initiative stalled for a few years.

In the autumn of 2018, the newspaper Postimees, led by Ainar Ruusaar, launched the section “Fake-detector”. Postimees’ Liar-detector remained a rather short undertaking.

In the autumn of 2019, the topic was raised up again by Herman Kelomees in the editorial office of Postimees, under whose leadership the Fact-check section appeared, which operated until the summer of 2020, when Kelomees left Postimees.

In May 2020, the Delfi editorial board joined the fake information exposing international initiative Debunk, which focused on exposing fake information. The Delfi section “Fact-check” grew out of this venture, which has now become a member of the International Fact Control Network (IFCN).

In January 2021, we wrote about the Click-saver, an independent fact-checking initiative launched by Herman Kelomees, formerly of Postimees. Unfortunately, the independent fact-checking process launched with the support of Levila came to a standstill in April of the same year, when Kelomees started working at the editorial office of Delfi.

Fact-checking has been carried out on a random basis, based on current needs by the Estonian Research Agency’s enterprise “Where do you know?”, The website, the publication “Objektiiv”, the newspaper “Õhtuleht” and the “Ypsilon” published in the Postimees Group for entertainment purposes, as well as the satirical publication “Readers’ letters” .

On several occasions, fact-check has received effective support from the Estonian Debate Society, which has helped Postimees, Delfi and ERR.

In 2021, the Debate Society, in cooperation with Delfi, will launch a fact-checking project aimed at the statements of politicians during the local government campaign period.

As can be seen from the above, fact-checking is rather project- or leader-based and has resulted in either a loss of funding or new challenges for the leader. All the fact-checking initiatives that have been in place over the years must be acknowledged, and the Delfi team’s efforts to become a member of the international network of fact-checkers is to be especially commended.

However, the need for fact-checking independent of media houses has not disappeared either. We wrote about this at length, for example in 2017.

Photo: Allan LEONARD/Flickr/CC