Iceland’s economic crash could have some positive consequences for
journalists worldwide. The Icelandic
Modern Media Initiative legislation was proposed late 2009 by a
committee of 19 of Iceland’s 63 members of Parliament, representing all
political parties, and is slated for Parliamentary vote sometime between
April and May 2010.
The vote comes just as the Icelandic media is taking heat for failing to
cover dubiously lawful developments leading up to the economic crash.
The creation of the IMMI was sparked last August by public uproar over a
last-minute injunction of Iceland’s national news broadcaster RUV,
which was forced to cancel an exposé of the bank Kaupþing’s dealings
leading to Iceland’s economic crash, minutes before live broadcast.
Instead, RUV explained they could had been prevented from airing the
broadcast they had originally planned, and instead aired an image of the
WikiLeaks website, where Icelanders could read the Kaupþing report
The IMMI would mean journalists from Iceland and abroad could feel free
to publish controversial information like this, without government
To create the proposal, the IMMI committee cherry-picked media
legislation from countries including Belgium, Scotland, France, and the
United States to create a law that works to protect journalists and
their communications, whistleblowers, and information sources, and to
prevent unfair libel charges.
If the IMMI passes, journalists around the world would be able to store
content on servers in Iceland, publish information that could be
prosecutable if published in their own country. It would even be
possible for large publications like the New York Times or the Guardian
to base themselves out of servers in Iceland if the need arose.
However, IMMI will not be able protect everyone. “It’s important to
remember that the IMMI appears to be a good bullet, but it’s not a magic
bullet,” Julian Assange, a founder of WikiLeaks, told Listening Post, a
show on Al Jazeera English. “They’ll be many cases where there’s brutal
suppression of the press that the IMMI doesn’t have substantial effect
on,” he said, suggesting that journalists in oppressive regimes will
still have to work anonymously to stay safe.
Iceland is a particularly fitting host for international media because
of its large underwater cables providing good bandwidth to Europe and
North America, its environmentally friendly energy supply, and its cool
temperatures, which provide an ideal place to store internet servers.
Alongside the legislation itself, the IMMI committee aims to establish
an Icelandic Freedom of Expression Award to recognize international
contributions to freedom of expression and information in the media.
IMMI’s proponents hope that, in addition to promoting justice and
freedom of information worldwide, the law would boost Iceland’s economy
and international reputation
See the Grapevine’s previous coverage of WikiLeaks Statement Regarding Persecution and Surveillance in Iceland.
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