The majority of Icelanders have a decidedly positive attitude about Wikileaks, even in light of a recent diplomatic cable dump that might prove embarrassing for the country.
As has been reported, Wikileaks has released thousands of diplomatic cables – frank exchanges between diplomats around the world – all with varying levels of secrecy. Kristinn Hrafnsson, a Wikileaks staffer in Iceland, confirmed for reporters that nearly 300 of these cables are between the US and Iceland, some of them involving Icelandic officials trying to convince the US not to close the NATO base, which would eventually happen in 2006.
However, an online poll on Vísir which asks, “Do you think the Wikileaks document publication has been for the good?”, 70.6% responded “Yes”. 29.4% believed otherwise.
While a voluntary online poll is not exactly scientifically accurate, parliamentary discussions of Wikileaks shed even more light on the attitude.
As Grapevine reported, Wikileaks was discussed in parliament yesterday. However, the main concern of Leftist-Green MP Álfheiður Ingadóttir was whether the practice of saving sensitive diplomatic communiques was common, and whether such files existed in Iceland – not what sort of damage the release of such documents might entail.
Even Minister of Foreign Affairs Össur Skarphéðinsson seemed more concerned with the idea that other countries were saving such communications, saying that he considered the collection of such communiques to be “very inappropriate”. While speculating that the release of the documents could strain relations between the US and other countries, he could not speak to Iceland’s position.
As yet, Icelandic officials have not yet read the cables between their country and the US, which may partly explain the aloof attitude about the implications of their release. But the Icelandic parliament also fought to change media laws in the country to protect whistleblowers from backlash from the wealthy and powerful. The bill received strong multi-partisan support, becoming law.
Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, has been criticized in the past for the release of leaked classified documents through his website, with some critics alleging that doing so endangers innocent lives. Amnesty International has also said Wikileaks has “put in danger the lives and integrity of many Afghans.” Assange, for his part, has denied these charges, saying that Wikileaks has made the effort to exclude the names of people whose lives might be endangered by the release of this information.