Two separate and unrelated lawsuits being launched over things written on blogs in Iceland raise questions on the difference between freedom of expression and slander.
In the first instance, Eyjan reports that conservative MP Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson has, through his lawyers, told Leftist-Green MP Björn Valur Gíslason to apologise for and take down a blog entry he wrote last December accusing Guðlaugur Þór of accepting bribes, or be taken to court for slander. Björn Valur’s blog entry pointed out substantial donations from private companies to the Independence Party, an issue that was in the media spotlight at the time, and raised questions about donations Guðlaugur Þór was given.
In response to the threat of a lawsuit, Björn Valur said that he actually welcomes the idea of taking the matter before a judge, if for no other reason than to have explained, once and for all, who donated how much money to Guðlaugur Þór and why. “On the other hand,” Björn Valur says, “the biggest downside for me is that it would be very expensive – if I lose. Does anyone want to give me some donations? :)”
At the same time, musician Egill Ólafsson has also threatened to sue someone over a blog entry. In this case, the matter involves former DV editor Jónas Kristjánsson, who wrote a blog entry comparing Egill to Third Reich propaganda master Josef Göbbels. This entry was written in response to a radio ad that Egill did which encouraged people to vote No on Icesave, wherein among other things said, he told people that Icelandic children would end up slaves to the British if people voted Yes.
Egill, not pleased with being compared to Göbbels, has asked Jónas to take down the blog entry and apologise, or be taken to court for slander.
The difference between the two cases is relatively straightforward. By Icelandic law, “slander” entails accusing someone of doing something or saying something that they did not do or say. That being the case, Björn Valur may indeed be found guilty of slander if Guðlaugur Þór can prove that he was not bribed, while Egill may have to prove that Jónas was accusing him of literally being Josef Göbbels, which should be difficult at best.
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