Briefs

Estonia: 19-25 September 2016

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Russian-language propaganda website Baltnews.ee quotes a Russian citizen of Estonia as saying Estonia is a corrupt country with limited democracy and freedom of speech.

Event: In a 24 September article, Russian-language website baltnews.ee quoted an ethnic Russian living in Estonia as saying that ever since Estonia began to pursue a Western model of development following independence, the country has become a system of “civilized slavery” instead of democracy, with pervasive corruption and limited freedom of speech. 

The false fact or narrative: The baltnews.ee article contains three false narratives: that Estonia is not democratic, that it lacks freedom of speech, and that it is plagued by corruption.

Reality on the ground: The Freedom House 2016 report Freedom in the World ranks Estonia as “free” (scoring 94 points out of a possible 100). Political rights, civil liberties and freedom all score very highly. Another report, Nations in Transit, ranks Estonia first in both anti-corruption and democracy, while its Freedom of the Press report ranks Estonia as “free,”

Technique: 
  • False facts, 
  • no proof.

Audience:  Estonia’s ethnic Russian population.

Analysis: This case study exemplifies a frequent Kremlin narrative: that Estonia is a failed country. In this case, its “failure” is attributed to Estonia following Western models after having regained independence, as well as relatively low incomes that make people corrupt. 

Description of sources: Baltnews.ee is a Russian-language propaganda site in Estonia founded in October 2014. Similar portals for Latvia and Lithuania were launched in 2014. According to the Annual Review of the Estonian Internal Security Service, all three Baltnews portals are funded by Media Capital Holding BV, a Dutch-registered company controlled by people related to Rossiya Segodnya—a news agency wholly owned and operated by the Russian government. The report says one of the project’s founders was Vladimir Lepekhin, director of the Eurasian Economic Community Institute, which attempts to influence policy in Russia’s neighboring countries. Aleksandr Kornilov, who belongs to the local Coordination Council of Russian Compatriots and heads the portalbaltija.eu, manages baltnews.ee.