Disinfo: Turkey and Estonia refuse Sputnik's reporting

Summary

The most recent of journalistic difficulties was the arrest by the Turkish authorities of the editor-in-chief of Sputnik Turkey and three journalists when they were reporting threats against them, which were all released the same day because there was no evidence to prove the charges against them.

In Estonia, the bank accounts of the employees of Sputnik were frozen, while those who continued working with the agency from home received legal threats from the police. Sputnik Estonia journalists reported that they had previously received letters from the Estonian police and border guards that included direct threats to open lawsuits against them if they do not cut all work relations with the Russian news agency.

Disproof

As part of a narrative to emphasize an alleged Anti-Russian movement, different incidents have been falsely linked to each other.

Turkish police detained 4 journalists of Russia’s Sputnik Turkiye news agency including editor-in-chief. According to the state-run news agency Anadolu, the journalists were “briefly detained” for investigation in line with Turkish Penal Code for "insulting the Turkish nation, Turkish republic and state institutions", and "disturbing the unity of the state and the solidarity of the country”, over a report on a disputed referendum that gave the southern province of Hatay to Turkey in 1939.

This came as tensions between Ankara and Moscow, which support opposing sides in the war in Syria, have escalated as Russia-backed Syrian forces intensified their assault in Idlib. The 4 journalists were later released after a phone call between the foreign ministers of the two countries.

European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) Secretary-General Ricardo Gutierrez was even quoted saying “these journalists were the victims of escalating diplomatic relations between Ankara and Moscow as a result of the ongoing war in Syria, particularly in Idlib province.”

On the other hand, in the case of Estonia where Sputnik is represented as a victim of unprecedented persecution, the country was just implementing economical sanctions on Russian companies, which are also valid for Sputnik, created by a Presidential decree.

The steps taken by Estonia are based on Article 2 of the Council Regulation (EU) No 269/2014, which foresees freezing the assets of Dmitry Kiselyov, the Director-General of Rossiya Segodnya. As a result, Estonian banks froze accounts of Rossiya Segodnya and the Financial Intelligence Unit informed persons employed or contracted by Rossiya Segodnya that knowingly working for or providing services to a sanctioned person was forbidden.

Estonia, which ranks 11th in the Reporters without Borders Press freedom index, has not even blocked Sputnik Estonia's website. The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Urmas Reinsalu has emphasised that Estonia has not taken any measures against the portal's media content nor its reporters.

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, which led to Sputnik Closing its Operations in Estonia.

publication/media

  • Reported in: Issue 188
  • DATE OF PUBLICATION: 02/03/2020
  • Outlet language(s) Arabic
  • Country: Turkey, Estonia, Russia
  • Keywords: Censorship, Dmitry Kiselyov, Sputnik, Sanctions
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