Ellex successfully represents Ministry of Education and Research in media dispute

Ellex Managing Partner in Estonia Ants Nõmper and Senior Associate Kairi Kilgi represented the Estonian Ministry of Education and Research in a media dispute against the former headmaster of Lasnamäe Vene Gümnaasium (Lasnamäe Russian Gymnasium) Andre Kante which ended with the Supreme Court ruling in favour of the Ministry.

The dispute began in March 2022 when the Ministry of Education and Research received information that the walls of Lasnamäe Russian Gymnasium are decorated with portraits of Russian statespersons, there was also suspicion that the school promotes a mindset favouring Russian president Vladimir Putin.

The Ministry sent a letter on this matter to Lasnamäe Russian Gymnasium which was also published in the Ministry’s document register where the media picked it up and gave it coverage. Former Deputy Mayor of Tallinn and former headmaster of Lasnamäe Russian Gymnasium Andre Kante sued the Ministry for this.

Kante was of the opinion that what had occurred was defamation of this honour and good name and he requested the rebuttal of incorrect factual allegations that the claimant has ordered portraits of Russian statespersons to be hung on the walls of the Lasnamäe school, that the claimant is leading the promotion of a pro-Putin policy at Lasnamäe school and the claimant supports Putin’s policy and anti-Ukraine military activity.

The Ministry of Education and Research objected that the Ministry has not expressed the statements alleged by Kante, moreover, the letter received by the Ministry and forwarded to the school did not contain such statements in such format either.

In April last year, Harju County Court partially granted the court claim, ordering the Ministry of Education and Research to refute the incorrect factual allegations made about Kante in the letter sent to the school on 17 March 2022, publish a notice on the rebuttal of the incorrect allegations in its document register and notify at its own cost Delfi Meedia AS that the letter sent by the Ministry to the Lasnamäe school has published incorrect factual allegations about Kante and request the rebuttal of incorrect factual allegations disclosed about Kante, the court also order the Ministry to pay compensation for non-monetary damage in favour of Kante.

The Ministry appealed to the circuit court which partially set aside the county court judgment. The court of second instance set aside the county court’s judgment in the part where the county court granted the court claim for the rebuttal of incorrect factual allegations but maintained the obligation to pay compensation to Kante.

The Ministry of Education and Research as well as Kante decided to appeal the circuit court judgment to the Supreme Court. With its judgment published on 22 May, the Supreme Court set aside the judgments of the county and circuit court and denied Kante’s initial claim in full. The Supreme Court agreed with the circuit court that the letter sent to the school did not include any incorrect factual allegations about Kante. In addition, the Supreme Court found that the letter did not contain inaccurate value judgments about Kante because the letter addressed to the school did not contain any personalised allegations or evaluations about the claimant and did not dishonour him.

haridus- ja teadusministeerium

Linked Experts

Person Item Background
Kairi Kilgi
Senior Associate / Estonia
Person Item Background
Ants Nõmper
Ants Nõmper, Dr. iur.
Managing Partner / Estonia