The Icelandic Journalist Union issued a statement harshly criticizing
Icelandic daily Morgunblaðið for the hiring of Davíð Oddsson as co-editor while simultaneously firing some 40 journalists, many of them
decades-long employees of the paper.
The statement from the union reads in part: “The union believes that the decision of the paper’s owners to hire a controversial politician as editor ruins the credibility of the paper.” The union also said that Oddsson’s long political carreer – as well as his last full time job as Central Bank chairman, where he created an international panic by stating on Icelandic television that “We [the Icelandic state] do not intend to pay the debts of the banks that have been a little heedless,” and said that foreign creditors could expect to only get about 5% to 15% of their claims – could put the jobs of the paper’s journalists in jeopardy.
On that subject, the union also decried the doubling of the editorial staff (Oddsson shares the position with former business newspaper Viðskiptablaðið editor Haraldur Johannessen) while at the same time firing some 40 journalists, most of them full time employees, some of them having worked at the paper for decades.
Morgunblaðið – one of only two of Iceland’s daily newspapers – was very closely tied with the Independence Party, with some contending that Oddsson was the “editor behind the scenes”, even during the paper’s supposedly impartial years. Morgunblaðið has thus had a difficult time shaking its image as an Independence Party soapbox.
Fréttablaðið – Iceland’s other daily newspaper – reports that people calling and attempting to cancel their subscriptions to Morgunblaðið have gotten busy signals all day yesterday. Jón Ásgeir Jóhannesson, the owner of 365 Media, which owns Fréttablaðið, told reporters, “My first reaction was that this is bad for Morgunblaðið, and good for Fréttablaðið.”
On a personal note, today will mark the last day Grapevine uses Morgunblaðið as a source for any news that appears online. As online news editor, I cannot in good conscience condone or support a newspaper now in the hands of an individual such as Davíð Oddsson, and hope that the paper’s numerous and talented journalists, photographers, lay-out designers, proofreaders and distributors may some day move on to greener pastures.
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