Freedom Of Speech, For Europeans Only

Published August 9, 2012

Spring Parliament usually gets crammed with tons of legislative proposals from the government. But out of all the bad ideas to hit Alþingi’s floor during its last session, the proposed Media Law amendments, which would, if passed, restrict foreigners’ freedom of speech and freedom of occupation, are undoubtedly some of the more sinister.
For some reason, The Ministry of Education, Science and Culture, which is responsible for regulating the media, feels it is necessary to amend the current Media Law with the following passage:
“The person responsible for media broadcasting service shall be a citizen of an EEA-country.”
Now in case you wondered, media broadcasting service may be a newspaper, a TV station, a web page, or even a blog, as long as it’s “edited.” Thus, strictly speaking, those without passports from Iceland, Norway or Switzerland or an EU country, might have trouble starting a blog aimed at the Icelandic market.
One could argue that this is really not that bad. Foreigners from outside the EEA, say Americans, for example, would still be able to own and run media outlets as long as they get some Icelander or other European to be formally responsible for their content. But this is of course ridiculous. If a law required women to drive under a supervision of a male passenger, I think everyone would agree that such a provision would violate women’s rights to be treated equally and impair their freedom of travel. Telling foreigners who reside in Iceland that they cannot be responsible for their own opinions is equally absurd.
It is hard to imagine why someone would consider a paragraph like this necessary. The explanatory notes that go along with the proposals make no effort in justifying this amendment; they only reiterate its purpose, claiming that if this law is approved that foreigners from outside the EEA will not be able to be responsible for running media organizations in Iceland.
Now it seems pretty clear that barring foreigners from certain jobs in private companies is unconstitutional.
The Constitution of Iceland guarantees freedom of expression. Constitutional scholars agree that “everyone” does not mean “every Icelandic citizen,” but rather “every person within Icelandic jurisdiction.” There is no good, merit-based argument for restricting the freedom of speech for foreigners in Iceland. There is also no good reason why a foreigner living legally in Iceland should be barred from certain jobs, simply because of their nationality. But even if such good reasons existed, the Constitution would still prohibit such discrimination. And if the Constitution didn’t, then various human rights charters, signed by Iceland, would clearly do so.
But legal issues aside, this is simply a horrible idea. We Icelanders should ask ourselves the following questions: Would ‘we’ find it fair if ‘we’ were to be barred from being chief editors or publishers of newspapers in other countries? Would we like it if we had to find someone else to vouch for us if we wanted to start a website in America? Would we like to be treated this way?
The current media law is pretty bad as it is. It already puts too many restrictions and obligations on the free press, but the foreigners’ clause is outrageous. We cannot allow it to pass.



Mag
Opinion
Searching For New Iceland Part 2: At The Heart Of It All

Searching For New Iceland Part 2: At The Heart Of It All

by

Somewhere between Selfoss and a Springsteen song lies the town of Gimli, Manitoba. If any town can be said to

Mag
Opinion
Have You Noticed The Mess They Have Made Of The Airport Renovations?

Have You Noticed The Mess They Have Made Of The Airport Renovations?

by

With tourist numbers on the rise in Iceland, the country is in a frenzy of construction and refurbishments are taking

Mag
Opinion
Don’t Ask Nanna: About Relationships, Kids And Parties

Don’t Ask Nanna: About Relationships, Kids And Parties

by

Dear Nanna, I’m getting married in Iceland next June and my fiancé and I are really stoked. The wedding pictures

Mag
Opinion
Searching For New Iceland Part 1: Celebrating June 17 In Toronto

Searching For New Iceland Part 1: Celebrating June 17 In Toronto

by

Maybe it’s the friendliness of the bus driver, or perhaps just the scorching heat, but it’s pretty clear I’m not

Mag
Opinion
Iceland: One Of The World’s Best Places To Have A Pussy

Iceland: One Of The World’s Best Places To Have A Pussy

by

Yes, Iceland is one of the best places on the planet to have a pussy. Or, I should say, one

Mag
Opinion
The Tyranny Of Tiny: Size Matters, Iceland

The Tyranny Of Tiny: Size Matters, Iceland

by

Be warned, Iceland, your toes are about to get stepped on by a loud, pushy American. Any conversation about life

Show Me More!