I GIVE UP: Rein Lang steps down over scandal at arts newspaper Sirp.
TALLINN - Culture Minister Rein Lang, who came under heavy criticism from the creative unions and cultural circles because of his involvement in a scandal at the culture newspaper Sirp, announced on the national television evening talk show ‘Dialogue’ on Nov. 21 that he will resign, reports Public Broadcasting.
“In such a situation, there is no point for me to sit in that office, really. I cannot get anything done anyway,” said Lang, adding that while facts are in his favor, he is not trusted.
“Yes, I will resign, I want to do it in front of the parliament, which is very reasonable since I can hold a speech there,” he added. “I have stuff to say. I definitely have stuff to say, I have stuff to say also personally to Estonian journalists. I intend to have a passionate speech, which is my habit,” Lang said.
Lang said that in Sirp, everything that took place was supposed to take place, but things went wrong. He said that Kaur Kender, who was appointed the acting editor-in-chief of Sirp, is an independent and intelligent person and he thinks that he will compete for the newspaper’s chief editor’s post.
Speaking of the protest campaign by culture figures, who in the Nov. 21 newspapers published photos of them with tape covering their mouths, Lang said that if someone protests in a free society, then it is a big problem. “Have any of those people who taped over their mouths faced obstacles to publishing their texts? It is a very fundamental question, I think,” said Lang. “I am puzzled.”
Lang admitted that this was a sign that there is no trust. He added that a good conspiracy theory lives its own life and any later refuting it doesn’t change anything. He added that this is a very big communication problem and problem for the government, that people in Estonian society want to believe things without caring for facts.
After his resignation, Lang will regain his post as parliament member.
The scandal started in the middle of the previous week when it was announced that writer Kender was picked - allegedly by Lang - as the new acting editor-in-chief of the state-owned weekly culture newspaper Sirp, after a contest to find an editor-in-chief failed. Before the decision on Kender was made public, several long-term employees of the newspaper were made redundant. Later, several more announced their resignations.
After a week of heavy criticism over the matter in the press, the Estonian Creative Unions made a statement condemning the unexpected changes in Sirp and noted that the culture minister had to resign due to a loss of trust, incompetence and harmful for culture decisions.
Lang has said that his involvement in the matter was limited only to discussing the financing of the newspaper and expressing support to the publisher of the newspaper for the choice of Kender, while critics accused him of the wish to cast political influence over the newspaper. Others said the scandal was the last straw that broke the camel’s back as the culture sphere has been steamrolled over for years.
Last Thursday a no confidence motion against Lang was initiated by the Estonian Social Democratic Party (ESDP) and Center Party parliamentary factions in Riigikogu, but it failed.