Culture minister denies interfering with newspaper

  • 2013-11-21
  • From wire reports, TALLINN

A no confidence motion against Estonian culture minister Rein Lang failed on Thursday, Nov. 21 due to shortage of votes, Public Broadcasting reports.

Out of the 91 MPs present, 38 MPs voted for no confidence against Lang. In order for a no confidence motion against a minister to succeed, the support of at least 51 MPs out of the 101 in the parliament would have been needed.

The calls come after a scandal concerning Estonian culture newspaper Sirp. Members of the Social Democrat party say Lang allegedly used his political post to directly interfere with administrative decisions in the activities of an independent media publication.

Lang has denied the claims. 

"I reject all accusations of lying and confirm that I haven't interfered in the activities of the culture paper council or board. All decisions were made in free atmosphere without any pressure from me or my party co-members," said Lang.

Lang admitted that he certainly has to consider whether it is even possible for him to keep working in such an atmosphere of mistrust. He said that the Sirp scandal has led him to considering quitting the minister's post on daily basis.

Last week, it was announced that since the contest to find a new editor-in-chief for the state-owned weekly culture newspaper Sirp failed, writer Kaur Kender was picked as the new acting editor-in-chief.

Meanwhile, several former long-term employees of the newspaper have been made redundant at once, and they were replaced with new staff members.

Earlier, the culture minister said that he was not connected to any of the changes but he later admitted that he had met with Kender and Toomas Väljataga, board chairman of foundation Kultuurileht that issues the newspaper, to discuss financing of the newspaper and okay the choice of Kender. Some critics claim the whole affair was a way for Lang to get the paper under Reform Party influence. Others say the scandal was the last straw that broke the camel's back as the culture sphere has been steam rolled over for years.