From Iceland — Journalists Appealing To Human Rights Court

Journalists Appealing To Human Rights Court

Published July 5, 2012

Two Icelandic journalists, who were forced to pay damages for articles they had written about strip clubs, are taking their cases to the European Court of Human Rights.
Vísir reports that the journalists in question, Björk Eiðsdóttir and Erla Hlynsdóttir, wrote articles about the nightclubs Goldfinger and Strawberries. Within the articles, they quoted employees who spoke of illegal activities going on at these clubs.
However, the nightclubs filed charges of libel against the two, and the testimony of the employees interviewed could not be proven. As such, Icelandic courts ruled that the articles be stricken from public record, and that the journalists be made to pay damages to the clubs.
Gunnar Ingi Jóhannsson, a lawyer for the journalists, told reporters that they intend to appeal the decision to the European Court of Human Rights. He points out that past precedent shows journalists cannot be held liable for things said by people they have interviewed; that to quote someone puts the responsibility on the quoted, not the journalist. Gunnar considers the ruling of the Icelandic court a violation of freedom of expression.
Only one other case of freedom of expression in Iceland has ever appeared before the European Court of Human Rights, and that was when Þorgeir Þorgeirson wrote an article on police brutality in 1992. His article was also ruled to be stricken from the record in Icelandic court, and the European Court of Human Rights ruled that as he was writing about a subject of societal importance, Þorgeir’s freedom of expression should not be curtailed. Björk and Erla’s case will be based around much the same reasoning.

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