From Iceland — President Signs Controversial New Media Law

President Signs Controversial New Media Law

Published April 26, 2011

A media law that has been criticised by, among others, the Federation of Icelandic Journalists, was quietly signed into law by the president, shortly before Easter.
Political scientist Eiríkur Bergmann Einarsson recently wrote on Eyjan that in order for the president to be consistent, he would need to refer this law to public referendum. One of the arguments the president used for referring Icesave III for referendum was that it had been rejected once before. In fact, the media bill the president just signed is very similar to the one he refused to sign in 2004.
The law has drawn controversy for calling for greater supervision of the media by the formation of a committee that will call upon media outlets to provide reports on published material. This would include demonstrating gender equality both within the staff and in coverage, as well as operating under full disclosure politically – to either be forthcoming with readers that the media source does have a political bent, or to maintain as much impartiality as humanly possible.
In addition, the law also bans reporting which “condones or encourages hatred based on race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, nationality, opinion or cultural, economic or societal position.” This last clause, many journalists have remarked, leaves open the potential for people in positions of power to sue journalists for what they perceive as hate speech directed at them for their “economic and societal positions”.
Grapevine contributor Íris Erlingsdóttir, also writing on Eyjan, has called the media law “a blight on the leftist government, which should be defending freedom in all areas, in particular freedom of expression.”

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