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Vulnerability and truth in times of crisis

It is said that the truth is the first thing that is lost in a war or conflict. In relation to the terrible attack on Ukraine in recent days, we have been able to witness how news is published quickly and then disappears just as quickly when it was unable to be confirmed.

We have seen how information and disinformation have come to play an important role in warfare in an attempt to control communication and the recording of history about what happened.

Public service broadcasting and other free credible media will play a hugely important role in these kinds of rapid historical events. The importance of being able to view free and independent news reporting of what is taking place, to listen to the analysis of experts from different perspectives and as a forum for debate and discussion is central to a functioning democracy. The entitlement of a democracy requires that one must withstand critical independent scrutiny.

So it is particularly disheartening when we see how the dissemination of news takes place in states that do not live up to being democracies where regimes dictate the narrative and content and deprive citizens of their democratic right to form their own views on issues based on independent information. When we also discover that the Estonian public service organisation is forced to remove posts communicating about Russia’s invasion, one becomes terrified as to where this will all end.

In the initial stage of the conflict, a number of cyber attacks occurred, which is perhaps symptomatic of the vulnerability of our society today. The Internet, electricity supply and communication systems are obvious targets for attacks and can have devastating consequences for people and businesses. Sanctions imposed are also aimed at digital phenomena, such as excluding Russia from the SWIFT banking system. Digitalisation is part of the bloodstream that makes a society work but, at the same time, it also turns out to be vulnerable, and attacks can have devastating consequences.

We should be grateful and proud that we are a country with a well-functioning public broadcasting service with a high level of trust among citizens. We should be happy and satisfied that we are a country at the forefront of digitalisation. But a system is only as strong as its weakest link. We need to tirelessly continue to develop our digital knowledge to ensure the robustness, security and integrity of all systems. Free and independent press, radio and TV are one of the rarest resources we have in times of crisis and unrest in the world.