– Mr. Putin, I’ve spotted a journalist from Estonia. Is he here? There was a journalist from Estonia. Well, there was a journalist from Estonia. Therefore, let’s give the floor to Sputnik. Sputnik is the mass medium they scoff at in Estonia.
– Do they really scoff?
Elena Cherysheva, Sputnik.Estonia: Yes. Hello. Yes, Mr. Putin. Two months ago, Sputnik.Estonia was subjected to economic blockade. Under the pretext of the sanctions, banks prohibited all transactions and transfers from the news agency Rossiya Segodnya to our employees’ personal accounts, our counter-parties. They also froze our tax payments to the tax agency. Our payments can’t be credited against the payee’s accounts. The intelligence agencies talked to our lessor. They put pressure on him, and he has to terminate our lease agreement. Also, two days ago, the police began sending letters to all of our employees clearly stating that according to them, the Rossiya Segodnya news agency is included on the sanctions list. Therefore, we, the employees, should be criminally liable. They warned us on January 2nd that if we don’t quit our jobs with Rossiya Segodnya by the end of the year, then they’ll enforce penalties against us. In my opinion, it’s unthinkable for a country presenting itself as a democracy. I ask for your help. What can the Russian state do for Russian journalists fighting against censorship in the West? Please comment on the Estonian authorities’ actions.
Vladimir Putin: “Unfortunately, there isn’t much that we can do. But I think that it’s you that do much. The fact that you’ve spoken about it can’t pass unnoticed. When I hear about such things, I’m very surprised because they always try to accuse us of some deadly sins, including putting pressure on independent mass media, but they do exactly what they accuse us of. Of course, this cynicism is astonishing. But unfortunately, I have to say that taking measures at the state level, involving some restrictions and other things, won’t really be efficient because they’ll benefit those who want to drive a wedge between our countries, our peoples. And we shouldn’t help them do that. No matter how unpleasant it is, we still should seek an opportunity to work in those countries, which are afraid of your information, you, the truth you tell your audience. There’s no other reason for them to hinder your activities. Apparently, they’re just afraid of your information, your influence on people’s minds. The freedom to disseminate information is one of the fundamental freedoms in the modern democratic world. Unfortunately, not everyone appears to act within this paradigm but stick to completely different rules, which they create for themselves. It can’t be helped. Our world is complex and diverse. We, on our part, will do everything to support you wherever you’re using available measures that won’t also hurt our international relations. We’ll see what else we can do”.