President’s adviser labels Finnish broadcaster’s correspondent “Kremlin’s propagandist”


Risto Vuorinen, Soome vabakutseline ajakirjanik Eestis
Risto VuorinenFoto: Karli Saul

Doubts at Finnish national broadcaster (Yle) whether freedom of speech is fully respected in Estonia.

“Yle’s Estonian correspondent Risto ‘Estonian-kids-eat-tree-leaves’ Vuorinen is circulating, fanning Kremlin’s propaganda, my advice: not to give interviews,” wrote an adviser to the President of Estonia, Ivi Anna Masso on her Twitter account at 12:23 yesterday. The accusation raised wide disapproval on both sides of the Gulf of Finland. Finnish officials, speaking to Eesti Päevaleht, were completely startled by Masso’s attack and expressed puzzlement.

When Eesti Päevaleht called Masso for comment, the adviser for president Toomas Hendrik Ilves continued attacking, she claimed that if we intend to cover this, then Eesti Päevaleht has also become a mouthpiece for Kremlin’d propaganda. Masso declined to explain her Twitter post, but said that she knows Russian propaganda and it is like pornography. The spokesperson’s office at the Presidential Chancellery did not pick up phones yesterday.

Yle flabbergasted

Yle’s correspondent for Baltic States, Risto Vuorinen, who found himself under avalanche of Masso’s criticism, has been working abroad for 17 years and filed thousands of stories for both Finnish broadcaster’s TV and radio news.

In her tweet Masso alluded to Vuorinen’s radio piece from 2011 on increasing food prices in Estonia and its effects. The story got some attention because of an example, which pointed to hungry kids who have been forced to eat tree leaves.

Vuorinen himself calls Masso’s tweet unbelievable. “How can it happen that a member of the President’s office warns about a foreign correspondent?” He is afraid that a note from such an important institution could have effect on his future work as a journalist. Instead of an apology he wishes to see proof that would back up claims made against him. “I hope that the President’s office will spell out publicly how I have lied and how do I sing for Kremlin.”

The chief of Yle’s Foreign News Department Elina Ravanti is extremely upset. “It is weird that in a democratic country like Estonia, where freedom of press is highly valued, president’s adviser posts something like that on Twitter,” said Ravanti. She stressed that Vuorinen’s work has been good and there have been no complaints about it.

Ivi Masso Foto: Ilmar Saabas

Vuorinen says that the tree leaves example is silly, because he was not the first one to have used this comment given by a source. Instead, he believes the criticism to be tied to his Facebook account. Indeed this was also alluded to by Masso in her separate Facebook comments.

Finns are naïve?

In an interview given to Yle last week, Masso said that Finns have a naïve attitude towards Russia. Vuorinen shared this with his Facebook friends with his own comment that might have displeased Masso.

Vuorinen first quoted Masso and then wrote some questions of his own: “Does this claim mean that we should do something that we don’t want to do = be afraid that they will trample all over us? If regular people are naïve does this also stand for the Finnish government, for all those who try to negotiate with the bear?”

According to Vuorinen this reference to the Russian bear was the only time he spoke about Russia in recent times. “I just raised a question, which I could well also do as a journalist. And because of this I am a mouthpiece of Kremlin now?” In reply to a direct question, whether he is Kremlin’s propagandist as claimed, came a short laugh. “No, of course not.”

© Eesti Päevaleht 2015