Draft Law a Threat to Press Freedom in Estonia | Freedom House

Draft Law a Threat to Press Freedom in Estonia

Washington
New draft legislation in Estonia allowing for criminal prosecution of journalists who refuse to reveal sources is a troubling backslide for press freedom and should be rejected by parliament, said Freedom House.
 
The legislation, introduced by Estonian Justice Minister Rein Lang, permits the courts to criminally prosecute journalists for refusing to name sources and states that newspapers can be fined for suspicion of intent to publish potentially harmful information. A coalition of global press organizations issued a public letter to the Estonian government today demanding that the legislation be dropped. Additionally, six leading newspapers in Estonia printed blank pages in protest on March 18.
 
“The ability to protect sources is absolutely crucial to a journalist’s work,” said Paula Schriefer, director of advocacy at Freedom House. “Estonia currently enjoys one of the highest press freedom rankings in the world and is the top performer in the Central and Eastern Europe. We call on the government to reject this legislation so that Estonia remains a leading model of media freedom.”
 
Source protection rights have been an issue in recent years in a number of European countries as well as the United States. In a number of cases, journalists have served jail time or been faced with fines or legal action attempting to protect a source. Legislation to protect this right at the federal level in the United States has made headway but is not yet law. However, in a landmark ruling in December 2009, the European Court of Human Rights affirmed the right to source protection by news organizations.
 
Estonia is ranked Free in Freedom in the World 2010, Freedom House’s annual survey of political rights and civil liberties, and Free in Freedom of the Press 2009, where it ranks 14th place out of 196 countries worldwide.
 
To learn more about Estonia, read:
 
 
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Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.

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