Vienna, 20 September 2017. “You’re a dead man,” they say on the phone to Tommaso Clavarino. Spokesperson of the ministry of Estonia defines him a useful idiot. Solidarity from Assostampa Subalpina
“Russian Spy, you’re a dead man”: it is the message that on July 26, 2017 an Estonian user, at the moment yet unknown, recorded in the telephone answering machine of Tommaso Clavarino, Italian freelance photojournalist who had published on the website of the Dutch De Correspondent two days earlier a written and photographic reportage (read) to signal the increased participation of Baltic people to associations that in these countries train civilians to use weapons to be ready to help national military formations in the event of war. Among the people portrayed in the photos, there are numerous youths still with no beards on their faces of an unknown age. The newspaper highlighted the fact, using the expression “child soldiers” in the title, which is not contained in the text written by Clavarino (the title has been modified).
On July 26, the spokesman of the Estonian Ministry of Defence reacted with statements that had great media coverage. The spokesperson called Clavarino “a useful idiot” paid by the Russian government and accused him of misinformation, even of having built the pictures (read). Clavarino was not given the opportunity to replicate and when the comments against him became more threatening he decided to report the facts to the investigators. On August 5, he denounced the telephone threat and filed a lawsuit against the author of the article and the newspaper that first reported allegations made by the Ministry of Defence.
The photojournalist has produced the report to document the phenomenon that forces many Baltic citizens to become volunteers trained in the use of weapons, a phenomenon that saw a spike after the annexation of Crimea by Russia, for fear of a civil clash.
Although the reportage speaks of the phenomenon by referring to the three Baltic countries (and thus also to Estonia), Clavarino stated that he photographed the use of weapons training in Lithuania and Latvia, but not in Estonia, and did so between April and June 2017, after requesting and obtaining authorization from the organizers of these initiatives. He explained that the boys he photographed had compressed air guns.
“I’m a photojournalist, I show what I see through my camera’s lens. Therefore, I’m offended that, in order to diminish the content of those images, they are reported as ‘photomontages’. I am surprised that none of the many Estonian journalists who spread the accusations of the ministry spokesperson has tried to get to know my version of the case” Clavarino adds.
The reporter received solidarity from the Assostampa Subalpina