Censorship does not befit our community (37)
Eestlased Kanadas 28 Jun 2018  EWR
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After reading Marcus Kolga's opinion piece in Eesti Elu, I had to check the calendar. Yep, it is still 2018. Then I checked my passports. I have two of them. Yep, one is still the property of the Canadian Government and another one belongs to the Estonian Government. Neither has anything to do with Soviet occupied Estonia where I grew up, Iran, North Korea or any other non-democratic authoritarian state.

Why did I have to check this? Because in the nutshell Marcus Kolga is calling for censorship of the free press, a hallmark of all authoritarian states. Referring to the ongoing Estonian House redevelopment/move to Madison saga, he is concerned about the ?tone of certain critical articles on an ‘independent’ Estonian-Canadian news portal“ and unspecified ?erroneous information.” Even though he does not call out the Estonian World Review (EWR) by name, it is clear that this is the news portal he is referring to. As a long time contributor to Eesti Elu and Estonian World Review, and as a part owner of the EWR, it is important that we address this line of thinking.

Our community is a microcosm of the wider world and the dynamics that encompass our lives, including the press. Some people watch Fox News, some prefer CNN, some read the Toronto Star, some prefer the National Post or the Toronto Sun. What has changed in last 10-15 years is the way public opinion is represented. It used to be controlled in large part by authoritative TV networks and newspapers, only to be re-cast on the Internet, in general, and via social media, in particular. The dissemination of information has certainly changed.

This is not to say that there shouldn’t be responsibility and accountability. Everybody is accountable for their own words and actions. Since 2010, there have been approximately 230 articles that have been published on EWR about Estonian House redevelopment and projects. Roughly 30% (and this is very generous number, counting English and Estonian versions separately) are critical of the Estonian House Board or the manner the 4Orgs are handling the Madison project. The remaining 70% are neutral news, announcements, or pieces published by the 4Orgs. I’m convinced that the Madison project and the process surrounding it is infinitely better, not worse, because of the analysis, appraisals, commentaries and opposing points of view being expressed. We even publish or link source materials used for many of our stories so readers can evaluate materials for themselves.

Marcus Kolga claims that ?trolls regularly target specific individuals with patently false accusations.” All elected individuals are open to criticism for their actions as representatives of public organizations. One may not like the criticism, one may find it offensive, but there must be a free and open platform to voice concerns and alternative points of view. Personal attacks are not allowed in EWR. All comments reported as offensive have been investigated and removed. As with all social media, everybody is accountable for their own actions.

I echo Marcus Kolga’s call for unity and cohesion for our small community. I disagree that the way to go about it is to silence the minority voice and independent free press.

People who do not support the prevailing decisions must have their voices heard. They must feel that they have been heard, otherwise a bitter minority is created. Open debate and dealing with the issues is by far preferable to ensuing rancor and any regrettable divisions that may spawn for years to come.

Tauno M?lder
Estonian World Review

I contacted Marcus Kolga privately to ask him about his specific concerns, but he has not responded.
 
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