Estonia: The Transparent Baltic Tiger

To continue with the student posts reporting on media freedom in the former USSR, we have a contribution on Estonia.  The student who is doing Estonia this semester feels a bit left out on these assignments…everyone else gets to write about repression and violence (and nut-so dictators), while  this student had a lot of write-ups along the lines of “well, my country isn’t crazy.”


In 2013, Reporters Without Borders ranked Estonia 11th on the list of media freedom. Eleventh. Germany was ranked 17th. Canada was 20th. The United Kingdom? 29th. After scrolling down the rankings for several minutes, I came across the United States’ ranking: 32nd. And that was after the US moved up 15 spots this last year. Last year, Estonia was ranked third. Not third in Europe, not third in post-Soviet States. Third globally. In 2013, there were 179 countries on the list. I’d say 11th place out of 179 is an excellent rating. That isn’t even the best news, which is that the trend in Estonia has been constant: it has been in or near the top ten for over ten years, far and away the most successful Post-Soviet State.

Read more about Estonia’s media and internet landscape at http://www.pressreference.com/Co-Fa/Estonia.html

Estonia is known as E-Stonia because of the country’s love of the internet, which is currently totally unregulated.  Roughly 75% of the population has access to the internet and over 65% of the last election turnout voted online.[1] Estonian citizens currently has full access to internet, with laws such as the Public Information Act, which forces the government to assist citizens in accessing public documents for no charge.

Further, in 2010 the National Broadcasting Council adopted new policies that “ensured unbiased coverage of electoral candidates on Estonia’s public broadcaster.”[1] Estonian media is almost entirely privatized, with the Estonian Public Broadcasting possessing two TV stations and five radio stations, which is similar to ours here in the United States. All other TV and radio stations operate independently of the government, an extremely rare occurrence for post-Soviet States.  Newspaper production  “includes four national dailies as well as regional, municipal, and weekly papers.”[2] Estonia has laws guaranteeing freedom of the press and of speech.

Estonia’s Economic Structure and Human Development, 1990-2004
Source: World Bank, World Development Indicators 2004 (2004); UNICEF, Social Monitor 2004 (2004); EBRD, Transition Report (November 2004); and UNDP, Human Development Report (2004).

An interesting uniqueness of Estonia’s media is that there are many Russian channels and stations: “For the country’s sizable Russian-speaking population, there are television and radio programs in Russian (including one of the public channels), Russian-language newspapers, and access to broadcast and print media from Russia.”[1] For instance, one of the state run radio stations broadcasts mainly in Russian.

 In all regards, it can be claimed that Estonia has had one of the most successful transition to free communications, arguably the best, of any other post-Soviet state. The press is as free as it could be, a promising sign for the future of Estonia’s remarkable transition.

References

  1. (2013). 2013 World Press Freedom Index: Dashed Hopes After Spring. Press Freedom Index 2013. Retrieved from www.http://en.rsf.org/
  2. (15 March 2013). Estonia. The World Factbook. Retrieved from www.cia.gov.
  3. Wynn, Jean Boris. (2013). Estonia: Basic Data. Press Reference. Retrieved from http://www.pressreference.com.
  4. (2012). Estonia: Freedom of the Press. Freedom house. Retrieved from http://www.freedomhouse.org.
  5. (2005). Country Assessment–Estonia. US Department of State: Diplomacy in Action. Retrieved from http://www.state.gov.
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