December 7, 2007

Juhan Kivirähk Elected Press Friend of the Year

On December 5 2008, the Estonian Newspaper Association (EALL) awarded the title “Press Friend of the Year” to the sociologist Juhan Kivirähk, while Prime Minister Andrus Ansip was declared the Press Enemy.

Juhan Kivirähk’s bold opinions on the topic of the Bronze Soldier got him the Press Friend award, which comes with a personal megaphone. Without fear of public criticism, Kivirähk broadened our understanding of freedom of speech. On April 30, immediately after the riots connected with the Bronze Soldier, Eesti Päevaleht published his article “The Bloody Birth of the New Three-Party Coalition” which expressed strong disapproval of the government’s conduct during the April crisis. Kivirähk wrote that “the protectors of the Bronze Soldier had to be ridiculed somehow” and that “the actions of the vandals and looters gave the government a pretext for making a snap decision to remove the bronze statue.” The sociologist claimed that the government’s trick was to invert cause and effect, thus implying that “the Russians did not start the riots because the Bronze Soldier was going to be removed; on the contrary, the statue was taken away because the Russians began to riot.”
Kivirähk’s article contributed to breaking the “chain of silence” after the April crisis. Unfortunately, he was harshly criticised for his statements by some politicians whose ideas on freedom of speech did not coincide with those of Kivirähk.
Nevertheless, Prime Minister Ansip was awarded the Press Enemy title for his habit to avoid public discussions, while he should be initiating and promoting debates.
The Press Friend and the Press Enemy were selected for a fourteenth time from among the candidates who were put forward by the editorial staffs of the members of the EALL. The aim of the Press Friend award is to highlight the role of the people in creating such an environment where information is easily accessible and public debates are encouraged.

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