Briefs

Estonia - 1-7 May 2016

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  • Eesti- 01-07 mai 2016  Artiklit saab lugeda ka eesti keeles
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Object of manipulation: The web portal Delfi.ee, in Estonian and Russian, debunked an attempt to manipulate Estonia’s national media.

Date: 6 May 2016

Title: Russian TV channel ‘brought’ tens of thousands people to the streets of Sillamäe, and other fabrications” (Канал "Россия" "вывел" на улицы Силламяэ десятки тысяч людей — и другие выдумки)

Author: Julia Rodina

Source of manipulation: Russian TV channel Rossiya-24

Date: 5 May 2016

Title: News at 20:00” (ВЕСТИ В 20:00)

The false fact or narrative: The report claimed the following: 

Dmitri Linter was detained at the Estonian-Russian border and was searched for St. George’s ribbons, Soviet flags and narcotics.

Tens of thousands of people marched on the streets of Sillamäe to participate in the Immortal Regiment observance marking Russia’s victory over Nazi Germany in World War II.

Estonian authorities have placed so many restrictions on the march in Tallinn that it will probably be banned after all.

Estonian authorities will probably disperse the march—as they love to do and as they know how to do (as an illustration, videos filmed during Tallinn’s Bronze Night were shown, along with videos depicting riots in Riga).

Estonian authorities want to restrict access of the Immortal Regiment march to the Bronze Soldier, since there are a few NATO sites nearby. People were told to be very careful because armed guards might open fire on them.

Estonia wants to rewrite history.

The truth: Dmitri Linter was one of the leaders of Night Watch during the 2007 Bronze Night in Tallinn, so if Estonia’s border police were interested in him, such suspicions would have been justified. It is highly unlikely he was searched for narcotics. It is also doubtful that tens of thousands of people gathered on the streets of Sillamäe, a small town in eastern Estonia that has only 14,000 people. Later that day, the Vesti.ru website mentioned that only a few hundred people had gathered in Sillamäe. The video used in that article—especially the video filmed in Riga—was unrelated to the content itself.

Also, the Immortal Regiment march was legally registered, with the only restrictions having to do with regulating traffic. The event’s organizers had sought permission to close part of Filtri Road—between Tallinn Bus Station and the Defense Forces Cemetery of Tallinn—to traffic. Tallinn’s municipal transport department stated that closing roads to traffic in that area would hamper the outbound movement of both intercity and city buses from the bus station. Finally, there is indeed an armed guard at NATO sites since these are military installations, yet it is highly doubtful that NATO soldiers would open fire on people marching peacefully.

Technique: The following techniques are used:

False interpretation: Facts are presented correctly, but interpreted in order to fit the Kremlin narrative. For example, Linter was indeed stopped at the border, but most probably he was not searched for narcotics (in order to discredit him); the authorities of Tallinn indeed declined to stop traffic as organizers had requested, but that does not mean that the march itself was banned. There are indeed NATO sites near the Bronze Soldier monument, but this does not mean that NATO soldiers would have opened fire on people marching peacefully.  

No proof: The article makes statements without offering proof or including any sources. For example, it provided no proof that Linter was searched for narcotics, that Estonian authorities intended to ban or disperse the march, or that they wanted to restrict access of the Immortal Regiment to the Bronze Soldier. Furthermore, no proof was offered about how many people gathered on the streets of Sillamäe, or that Estonia wants to rewrite history.

Mirror technique: This means blaming the other side for what one is doing. There is no proof that Estonian authorities have tried to rewrite history, yet this is exactly what Russian authorities have tried to do—for example, claiming that the occupation never happened.

Exaggeration:  The article claimed that “tens of thousands people” gathered, when “hundreds” is closer to the truth.

Drowning the facts in emotions: The Bronze Soldier is an emotionally important monument for Estonia’s Russian minority. Reporting that Estonian authorities want to restrict access to it creates a considerable amount of frustration, and makes the actual facts of the case less important.

Changing the context: The video material used in the report—especially the one filmed in Riga—was unrelated to the story but was used to create the impression that Estonian authorities use violence against peaceful people.


Audience: Even though its attempt to manipulate Estonia’s national media failed, Russian TV channels are widely watched in eastern Estonia. According to the Open Estonia Foundation’s study, “Current events and different sources of information,” the most important sources of information for the country’s non-Estonian citizens are Russian-language TV channels, with 72 percent of respondents saying they are important.

Analysis: This incident marked one of many cases where Russian media attempts to manipulate Estonian media through disinformation failed. Delfi.ee did a great job debunking Russia’s lies and half-lies, presenting the news provided by Rossiya-24 with analysis. Nevertheless, since Russian-language media is widely consumed by Estonia’s Russian-speaking minority, the Rossiya-24 report definitely had some influence.

Description of sources: Delfi, a major Internet portal that offers daily news in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, operates in the Baltic countries under the domain names delfi.ee, delfi.lv and delfi.lt. Aside from versions in Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian, the company offers Russian-language versions of its portal in all three countries. Delfi is owned by Estonian media conglomerate Ekspress Grupp, while Rossiya-24—a state-owned Russian-language news channel, covers major national and international events as well domestic issues.