Despite the apparently absurdity of the Estonian authorities’ threats, the criminal prosecution of journalists in Europe today is a reality. The behaviour of the Estonian regime towards its citizens can be considered as public persecution, legal arbitrariness, a phenomenon of totalitarianism and the grossest violation of freedom of speech, which is unprecedented in the European Union.
This is part of a recurrent Russian disinformation narrative to portray Baltic states as dictatorial and Kremlin-linked media as sources of alternative views and Russia as a global champion of freedom of the press.
Estonia is ranked as the 11th freest country in the world for press by Reporters Without Borders. Estonia does not persecute journalists or limit freedom of expression. It's important to note that Estonia has not blocked Sputnik Estonia's website, as it is accessible. The Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu has emphasized that Estonia has not taken any measures against the portal's media content: "They are financial sanctions aimed at economic activity. I believe it to be justified. We have notified the European Commission's Legal Service. European agencies have said in the Commission that steps taken by Estonia in exercising sanctions policy are warranted."
The current problems of Sputnik Estonia stem from sanctions against Dmitry Kiselyov, Director-General of Rossiya Segodnya, the mother company of Sputnik, as a result of Russia’s invasion of Crimea. Article 2 of the Council Regulation (EU) No 269/2014, on the territorial integrity of Ukraine, foresees Kiselyov’s assets to be frozen. As a result, Estonian banks froze the accounts of Rossiya Segodnya and the Financial Intelligence Unit informed persons employed or contracted by Rossiya Segodnya that it is forbidden to knowingly perform work or provide services to a sanctioned person.
The EU vs Disinfo team has found 49 different Sputnik websites from all over the world and 31 of them are in the Disinfrormation cases database, meaning those outlets have been publishing disinformation. Sputnik Estonia is represented in that database both in Estonian and in Russian languages.
Sputnik was created by a Presidential decree with the aim to “report on the state policy of Russia abroad”. Numerous reports have described how top managers from all the large government-controlled outlets and some influential private media attend the weekly meetings where "media managers receive guidelines that “help” them not to overstep the Kremlin’s so-called “double white lines”".