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President: Freedom of speech not shrunk in Estonia in past few months

TALLINN - Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid at the general meeting of the European Federation of Journalists on Friday highlighted the importance of free speech and noted that in her opinion, neither freedom of speech nor that of the press have decreased in Estonia over the past months.

The Estonian head of state said, however, that the current patterns in the society are forcing us to increasingly commit to recreating the said freedoms. She noted that neither freedom of speech nor press freedom have shrunk in Estonia in the past few weeks and months; what matters, however, is the surrounding reference system.

"In Estonia, too, the media has found itself under unusual attacks attacks over the past months. That is why some steps, comments, terminations of employment contracts, calls for a balanced approach can appear to be intimidating, whereas at a different time they would merely make one shrug one's shoulders. And they do not just appear to be as such, but can indeed prove dangerous, if that is what the environment is like," Kaljulaid said. 

The Estonian head of state said that freedom of the media must be recreated on a day-to-day basis, if needed. 

"It is first and foremost the media itself that can recreate that freedom. Editors. Chief editors. Owners of media institutions. They are the backbone upholding our free speech. They are the ones who can and must provide journalists with the security that they will remain free and independent. They must stand up for their journalists. And that is how journalists can in turn provide the society with the assurance that speech is indeed free," the president said.

Kaljulaid also spoke about the biggest asset of free press.

"Why is it important that we should have independent journalism? Independence in itself does not guarantee good journalism. Independent journalism in itself does not automatically constitute high-quality journalism. However, it does not matter in the slightest because the asset of independent journalism lies in its independence," the president said.

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