A government bill calling for sweeping reforms in the Icelandic media is meeting with strong resistance, in particular with regards to increasing competition and supervision, and finalizing a provision against hate speech.
The bill, submitted by Minister of Education and Cultural Affairs Katrín Jakóbsdóttir, seeks to create a more competitive environment for media companies in Iceland. It has just been introduced for an initial vote, having not even gone to committee yet, but many conservatives are already criticizing the bill – despite the fact that they themselves submitted their own media bill, with the exact same purpose, in 2004. It was the first bill in Icelandic history that the president refused to sign into law.
But many media companies are also unhappy with the bill for other reasons. In particular, the creation of a special Media Office – an independent government agency designed to supervise media operations and reporting in Iceland, and regularly submit findings to the government.
Yet another group is opposed to Article 27 of the bill, which bans “hate speech”, stating, “The media is not permitted to incite hatred based on gender, sexual orientation, religion, nationality, political opinions or cultural, financial or social status in society.” Critics of the article say that this is an infringement of freedom of speech – perhaps unaware that Article 233(a) of the Icelandic Penal Code already says essentially the same thing.
It appears that media reform in Iceland will be a long and tumultuous battle.