API-IPA has objected against the recent decision by the Estonian EU presidency to deny accreditation to this week's Gymnich informal ministerial in Tallinn for three Russian journalists from newsagency Rossiya Segodnya. One of them is Vladimir Dobrovolskiy, a member of API and a fully EU accredited correspondent in Brussels. As such, he fulfills all the criteria for accreditation set by the European institutions, the Belgian authorities and API.
API finds that as a matter of principle, any journalist who has an accreditation to the European institutions, and whose application has thus been vetted by the European Commission, the European Council and the European Parliament, as well as by the Belgian security services, should receive an accreditation to any formal or informal meeting organised by or under the auspices of the European Union, wherever they may take place – in Brussels or in one of the member states. For API/IPA that equal treatment is fundamental.
The Estonian authorites motivate their decision by referring to the fact that Rossiya Segodnya is state owned and controlled and therefore not independent, but that condition applies to many news organisations all over the world, even in Europe, and has not prevented them from being accredited to the EU.
API/IPA does not judge its members by the content of their work, or if they are pro or contra the EU or its member states. The EU and its members should be strong enough to counter publications that they consider propaganda, without denying them access to their meetings.
The Estonians point to a resolution by the European Parliament, calling Sputnik (part of the Rossiya Segodnya group) a 'pseudo news agency' because it engages in anti-EU propaganda. But that same European Parliament, through its media services, has approved the EU accreditation for Rossiya Segodnya.
API has noted that the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) as well as the Council of Europe, organisations of which Estonia is a member, have in the last few days urged the Estonian authorities to reconsider this decision. In June last year the OSCE issued a declaration stating that ,"Accreditation should not serve as a tool to control content, restrict the flow of information across borders, or as a sanction in response to alien propaganda." In our view this should also apply to the Rossiya Segodnya case.
For all the reasons above, API demands that the Estonian authorities reconsider this decision and grant accreditation for the EU informal ministerial meetings in Estonia to all journalists officially accredited to the EU institutions.