From Iceland — Minister Allegedly Scolded MPs, Pressured Journalists Over Leak Coverage

Minister Allegedly Scolded MPs, Pressured Journalists Over Leak Coverage

Published January 17, 2014

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Minister of the Interior Hanna Birna Kristjánsdóttir is alleged to have pressured MPs to not publicly question her over a leaked memo regarding an asylum seeker. The editor of an Icelandic magazine also contends he has been called many times by the ministry in an attempt to pressure him to stop reporting on the matter.
DV reports that Hanna Birna was none too pleased with being formally questioned in parliament about a leaked memo which falsely impugned Nigerian asylum seeker Tony Omos and the expecting mother of his child, Evelyn Glory Joesph.
Pirate Party MP Birgitta Jónsdóttir, who was amongst the MPs to ask about the leak, told reporters that shortly after the parliamentary session on December 3, Hanna Birna took Birgitta into a meeting room where she “scolded” the MP. Several MPs also reportedly told DV that on December 16, when Left-Green chairperson Katrín Jakobsdóttir intended to submit her own questions about the leak, Hanna Birna confronted Katrín in the parliament cafeteria, and asked her not to ask about it. Hanna Birna reportedly “did not take it very well” when she realised Katrín had no intention of withdrawing her questions.
Ministerial pressure allegedly extended beyond the halls of parliament, too. DV’s editor, Reynir Traustason, told Vísir that the minister had personally phoned him in an attempt to get the magazine to stop covering the story.
“I have gotten many phone calls from [the ministry],” Reynir said. “The minister tried to prevent and influence the reporting of Jóhann Páll Jóhannsson and Jón Bjarki Magnússon,” referring to the two lead reporters on the leak story.
Reynir alleged that the calls were “very unpleasant”, and that ministry staff are attempting to portray themselves “in the role of the victim”.
Here, Reynir refers to allegations from ministerial assistant Þórey Vilhjálmsdóttir that she received an angry phone call from Reynir after she appeared on radio station Rás 2 this morning, accusing DV of being on a mission to attack the minister.
Reynir confirmed he made the call, saying, “It’s completely true I called and was curt, but she was saying we were trying to attack the minister. That’s not the case. We’re not approaching this story from any political point of view.”
As reported, the office of the State Prosecutor has demanded the Ministry of the Interior hand over any and all documents related to a memo which leaked last November to select members of the media. The memo impugned both Tony Omos and Evelyn Glory Joseph with accusations which later proved untrue. Whilst the ministry has denied creating the memo, all evidence suggests the ministry as the source.
When asked by radio host Bergsteinn Sigurðsson this morning whether she believed the leaked memo came from the ministry, Þorey replied, “I naturally cannot say that.”

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