Several journalists and media representatives have called on Estonian president, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, to veto the new media law passed by parliament yesterday.
The new law, passed with a majority of nearly 80% (51 of 65 votes with 12 opposed and 1 abstention), would make it possible for authorities to impose fines on media outlets even before they published ‘compromising material’. Courts could thus fine newspapers and magazines preventively if their articles are deemed libelious or violate the personal privacy of persons featured in them.
While the Estonian ministry of Justice defends the measures as to fill an existing gap in media law, several national and international organisations have voiced their concern about the future of investigative journalism and its negative implications for the financial situation of their publishing companies.
According to Art 107 II of the Estonian constitution, President Ilves now has 14 days to either sign the law, veto it or refer it to the constitutional court. In the case of a veto, parliament can override his veto with a relative majority. Thereafter, however, Mr Ilves could still refer the law to the constitutional court (this provision is unique in Central ans Eastern Europe, all other presidents in the region are obliged to promulgate the law after an unsuccessful veto).