Disinfo: Estonia oppresses Russian media as part of the new global wave of anti-Russian sanctions

Summary

Russian journalists and media outlets are regularly attacked and oppressed by Baltic states’ authorities. Websites of Sputnik Lithuania and Sputnik Latvia were blocked for some time, recently Estonian authorities made Sputnik Estonia payments problematic claiming that the money is terroristic. Given that no Media Law exists in Estonia, there is no such thing as official accreditation, hence who will be considered a propagandist depends on what will be on the mind of a certain bureaucrat. It looks like a consecutive sanction wave against Russia is coming. WADA statement to ban Russia from the Olympics, events around Sputnik offices in the Baltic countries, and Zelenskyy’s visit to the Baltics are all parts of one chain.

Disproof

This publication misrepresents the reasons behind occasional Baltic states' legal actions against Sputnik and puts forward a conspiracy of West's concerted anti-Russian actions. There is no persecution against Sputnik in Estonia. The agency has been forced to move out of its office in Tallinn because of its inability to pay the rent due to sanctions. In October 2019, Estonia-based branches of the foreign banks that operated the accounts of Rossiya Segodnya, the mother company of Sputnik, froze all its transfers, while other banks in Estonia refused to operate with the firm. This is the result of the sanctions imposed by the European Union on Dmitry Kiselyov, the director general of Rossiya Segodnya, following the outbreak of the Ukraine crisis. Although there is no specific law on the press in Estonia, the media space is regulated by the Estonian journalists code of ethics and various pieces of legislation. Freedom of speech in Estonia is guaranteed by the Constitution, laws and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. Estonia is ranked as the 11th freest country in the world for press by Reporters Without Borders and belongs to Freedom House's Freedom of the Press top countries. In 2016 Latvia's domain registry shut the website of Sputnik Latvia after receiving a letter of concern from the Latvian Foreign Ministry, which drew attention to Sputnik's coverage of Ukraine and routine denial of the embattled nation's territorial integrity. In July 2019, Latvian authorities blocked access to the online portal baltnews.lv, owned by Rossiya Segodnya. In mid-2019 a court in Vilnius ruled on blocking Sputnik Lithuania over copyright issues. See earlier disinformation cases alleging that Estonia and Lithuania are totalitarian, that Russian media is being discriminated in the Baltic states, and that Baltic states’ policies equal to Third Reich.

publication/media

  • Reported in: Issue 177
  • DATE OF PUBLICATION: 27/11/2019
  • Outlet language(s) Russian
  • Countries and/or Regions discussed in the disinformation: Lithuania, Estonia, Russia, Latvia
  • Keywords: Anti-Russian, Sputnik, Sanctions, Baltic states
see more

The US and UK interfere in Europe's affairs and try to destabilise it

The second most important reason [behind the destabilisation of the political situation in Europe] is the interference of outside powers, especially the United States and Britain, in the political life of continental Europe. The United States has no interest in reshaping the EU into a strong and capable structure. That would threaten America’s interests in Europe.

Disproof

Recurring pro-Kremlin disinformation narrative about the US presence in Europe, portraying Europe as a vassal of the USA and trying to undermine the sovereignty of European countries. Additionally, the claim that the UK interferes in European affairs and aims to destabilise it is completely baseless and not backed up with any evidence.

In fact, the EU Member States are sovereign countries and make sovereign decisions about their own security and policies. The US is an important ally to the EU but EU policy is not determined by the US, as explained by the EU High Representative.

NATO is a relic of the Cold War

NATO is no longer a single military bloc. NATO is a relic of the Cold War. Since then, NATO is just a financial scheme. For those who pump money out of nothing. For the countries without economies, hoping for external military financing, аnd for the arms corporations.

Disproof

Recurring pro-Kremlin disinformation narrative, undermining NATO's role as a defensive military alliance. NATO is a defensive alliance, whose purpose is to protect its member states. Concerning the claim, that NATO is the relic of the Cold War, at the London Summit in 1990, Allied heads of state and government agreed "to keep standing together, to extend the long peace". This was their sovereign choice and was fully in line with their right for collective defence. Since then, thirteen more countries have chosen to join NATO. Twice since the end of the Cold War, NATO has adopted new Strategic Concepts (in 1999 and 2010), adapting to new realities. Thus, rather than being disbanded as a relic, NATO adapted, and continues to change, to live up to the needs and expectations of Allies, and to promote their shared vision of a Europe whole, free and at peace. After Russia’s annexation of Crimea and amid emerging security challenges in the Middle East and North Africa in 2014, NATO leaders at the Wales Summit adopted the Readiness Action Plan, a comprehensive package of enhanced collective defence and deterrent measures designed to ensure the transatlantic alliance could respond swiftly and firmly to changes in its security environment. Apart from that, NATO membership is not a financial scheme for profit. Member countries make direct and indirect contributions to the costs of running NATO and implementing its policies and activities. The defence expenditure of NATO members "represent payments by a national government actually made, or to be made, during the course of the fiscal year to meet the needs of its armed forces, those of Allies or of the Alliance." In 2006, NATO Defence Ministers agreed to commit a minimum of two per cent of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for defence expenditures. According to NATO, the defence capacity of each member country has an important impact on the overall perception of the Alliance’s credibility as a politico-military organisation. See several other anti-NATO narratives such as NATO is monstrous Cold war relic, NATO cultivates Cold War thinking and considers Russia as an enemy, NATO is fully subordinated to the USA; Baltic states, Moldova, Poland are NATO “hostages”.

Militants with the help of White Helmets are planning new provocations in Syria

Terrorist groups are planning provocations in Syrian Idlib with White Helmets. Terrorists are going to stage airstrikes and chemical attacks on the territories of the de-escalation zone. Also, militants are already conducting a “casting” among local residents to participate in the filming.

Disproof

Recurring pro-Kremlin conspiracy theory painting the White Helmets as terrorists and shifting blame for chemical attacks in Syria away from the Assad regime. The White Helmets are a staple topic of pro-Kremlin disinformation narratives on the Syrian civil war, having already been accused of numerous other provocations and war crimes including organ trafficking; aiding terrorist organizations; staging and/or perpetrating chemical attacks, sometimes with the help of Western intelligence agencies. These claims are not supported by evidence. Notwithstanding the Kremlin's repeated "warnings" of imminent chemical attacks (real or staged) to be carried out by Western actors, available evidence stubbornly continues to link such incidents to the Syrian regime. By September 2018, UN human rights investigators had identified 39 chemical attacks perpetrated in Syria since 2013, of which 33 were attributed to Damascus. See similar cases claiming that White Helmets and terrorists are jointly preparing new chemical provocations in Syria and that White Helmets are involved in the production of videos of staged chemical attacks. See here on the importance of White Helmets in Russian and Syrian disinformation.