Freedom of the Press via Iceland

Iceland could become a “journalism haven” if a proposal put forward by some Icelandic MPs aided by whistle-blowing website Wikileaks succeeds.

The Icelandic Modern Media Initiative (IMMI), calls on the country’s government to adopt laws protecting journalists and their sources.

It will be filed with the Althingi – Iceland’s parliament – on 16 February.

If the proposal succeeds it will require the Icelandic government to consider introducing legislation.

Julian Assange, Wikileaks’ editor, told BBC News that the idea was to “try and reform Iceland’s media law to be a very attractive jurisdiction for investigative journalists”.

Legal threats

The IMMI aims to pull together good practice from around the world and incorporate it into a single body of law.

“We’ve found good laws in different countries but no country that has all of these laws put together,” said Mr Assange.

The proposal has been informed by Wikileaks’ experience in fighting legal threats to publication.

‘Transparent nation’

The proposals also include steps to end so-called “libel tourism”, the practice of pursuing libel actions in the most favourable legal jurisdiction irrespective of where the parties are based.

But legal threats are faced not just by journalists, but by publishers, internet hosts and other “intermediaries”, Wikileaks said. As a result, the proposals include plans to clarify the protection for “mere conduits”.

One of the proposal’s supporters, Birgitta Jonsdottir of The Movement, a political party with 3 MPs in the Icelandic parliament, told the BBC that she was confident the measure would become law.

“From what I have experienced from discussions with MPs from all the different parties, there is incredible good will,” she said.

‘Positive support’

At a meeting with a small group of Icelandic MPs about the IMMI, to which the BBC had exclusive access, Mr Assange stressed how Iceland’s image would benefit from becoming a champion of free speech.

For example, one of the proposals calls for the creation of The Icelandic Prize for Freedom of Expression which “promotes Iceland and the values represented in this proposal”.

There is also interest in the IMMI among some members of the Icelandic government.

The Icelandic Minister for Education Culture and Sports Katrin Jakobsdottir told the BBC that she thought that “the general idea was good” and said that she thought that it “might get positive support”.

But she stressed that it was very early days and that the changes would involve many ministries.

She said that elements of the proposal coincided with changes to media law currently being considered by her department.

“We have received approximately 100 legal threats in the past 18 months so we are keen to see legislation that protects the press and quality reporting”, he said.

At present Wikileaks operates in a number of different jurisdictions to “take advantage of good laws,” he said.

“It seems the Icelandic proposal is going to pull all those laws together and put them in one place.”

Full Story BBC


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