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Overdriven trees are hewn in Estonia

Adjudication
9 July 1997

EPC discussed the complaint made by the Secretary General of the Ministry of Environment Rein Ratas concerning an article published in Pühapäevaleht on 18 May 1997 headlined “Overdriven trees are hewn in Estonia”.

Rein Ratas says that the above-mentioned article spreads lies: he has not given an order to hew down the trees in Harjumäe park and on the slopes of Toompea. Neither was it authorized by the ministry. According to Mr. Ratas the Ministry of Environment does not even have the legal base to authorize or prohibit anything.

The chief editor of Eesti Päevaleht states in his rebuttal that the reconstruction project of the Toompea slopes was approved by the environmental protection division, which is under the jurisdiction of Mr. Ratas. Also the Minister of Environment affirmed that the Head of the nature conservation division Tiit Randla had approved the project after being briefed by the ministry’s official Veljo Ranniku. The letter of approval bears a stamp of the Ministry of Environment’s chancellery. The approved project foresaw the liquidation of 63 trees and 1,000 m2 of bushes.

EPC states that in case the officials of the Ministry of Environment approve a project which foresees the hewing of trees the ministry will definitely bear responsibility for it. But the personal accusation against Rein Ratas is not grounded as there is no proof that the Secretary-General had “given an order” to hew down the trees.

Deriving from that the EPC’s adjudication is partly condemnatory:

1. The personal accusation not supported by any facts against the Secretary-General Rein Ratas is condemnable. Thus, the newspaper has breached the good tradition of journalistic accuracy.

2. EPC considers the Pühapäevaleht’s reproach to the Ministry of Environment justified and thus frees the newspaper from all relevant charges.

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