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Investigative journalism in e-State Estonia Tarmo Vahter Weekly newspaper Eesti Ekspress www.ekspress.ee
The Estonian Way • Estonia has since 2001 the Freedom of Information Law (Avaliku Teabe Seadus). • It has really changed the Estonian journalism. • I will tell you about 3 different cases, where I have found interesting information from the Internet.
1) Documents registers • Every government office in Estonia must publish the register of correspondence on its website. • You will see who has sent the letters for the office and what the topic was. • If you want to read the original letter, you have to send a FOIA request. • In 5 days time the government office must send you the copy of the letter.
The register of correspondence of the Ministry of Justice • http://www2.just.ee/jdocs
In 2006 I found an interesting letter about Congoin this register • http://www2.just.ee/jdocs//?grupp=sisse&meta=mkp&otsi=11.09.2006
CLAIM:Ex-prime minister Tiit Vähi is doing illegal mineral business in Congo!?
2) Central commercial register and land register • https://ar.eer.ee/ • Everybody can use the Estonia´s central commercial register and land register. • It is not free of charge – you have to pay about 50 cents–1 euro for each search. • You can do good stories, if you use both of the databases.
In 2008 I just accidentally noticed that the private company of politician Heiki Kranich was registered at the address Tuvi 12/3.
Let´s check the land register! • https://www.just.ee/kravalik/Login.aspx?ReturnUrl=%2fkravalik%2fDefault.aspx
What did I find? • The land register showed that it was a big 160 m2 apartment. • The owner of the apartment was not Heiki Kranich, but an unknown company Luksi Maja. • Back to the commercial register!
What did I find now? • One of the owners of the company Luksi Maja was Koit Uus - a very rich businessman. • Uus had recently made a big land deal with the ministry of environment. • Guess who was the minister of environment back then?
3) Archival Information System • http://ais.ra.ee/ • Database of National Archives of Estonia. • It enables everyone to get information about a record on the Internet. • There are more than 5 million records. • You can not see the documents themselves, you have to go to the archive to read them.
In 2006 I got a tip that some political parties have handed their documents to the National Archives. • I made a search with the name Isamaa (Pro Patria Union) – it´s the most important conservative party in Estonia.
Unbelievable! • They have handed every financial document from the year 1993 to the National Archives. • Nobody had read them before. • There where even original documents of the bank transfers.
When Pro Patria´s leader Mart Laar was the prime minister of Estonia, his party was secretly collecting money from the state-owned enterprises.
Summary • It´s possible to find very interesting things from the Estonian databases. • You can make good stories very cheaply • You just have to now where to look. • And it´s very important to be patient