Tycoon Awarded Damages From Journalist

16.11.2012
Words by Paul Fontaine
A journalist has been ordered by Reykjanes District Court to pay millionaire Jón Ásgeir Jóhannesson damages for a story he wrote on his business practices.

About a year ago, DV reports, journalist Svavar Halldórsson wrote a story about Fons, the company which used to own IcelandExpress. In 2007, Fons had allegedly lent some 3 billion ISK to another company, Pace Associates, in Panama. This money then allegedly ended up in the pockets of three men, including Jón Ásgeir.

Jón Ásgeir, denying any wrongdoing, promptly sued Svavar, the journalist who reported the story. He asked for 3 million ISK in damages and that the actual text of the story pertaining to him be deemed dauð og ómerk, meaning that it would be stricken from the public record, making it illegal to re-print those words again.

Svavar, in his defence, testified that his reporting was based on sources both oral and written, and that he did not have to answer for their validity himself. However, as the Grapevine has reported, Icelandic law pertaining to tort actually gives people the choice of suing a journalist's sources for libel - or suing the journalist themselves.

Although the court did agree that Svavar had shown sufficient effort in trying to reach Jón Ásgeir for his side of the story, the court ruled that Jón Ásgeir had suffered damage to his reputation based on the story, and that Svavar must pay 300,000 ISK in damages.

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