News In Brief: December - The Reykjavik Grapevine

News In Brief: December

Published December 8, 2014

Parker Yamasaki

Last month Norway may have jumped the gun with its gift giving—or rather, by asking the Coast Guard to actually pay for those submachine guns. Despite general public opposition to the militarizatgunsion of the Icelandic police force, those guys still haven’t given up; they really seem to lust for firepower and are now campaigning to receive funding to just up and buy a few dozen submachine guns. According to Jón Bjartmarz, Chief Superintendent at the High Commissioner of the Icelandic Police, such tools are necessary in gaining the upper hand against terrorism. Specifically citing the threat that the Islamic State poses by way of internet propaganda, the chief asserted that it would be “absolutely irresponsible” not to prepare for such a possibility.

jolatre_raudavatn-reykjavikisSpeaking of purported gifts from Norway, Icelanders might be conflicted about the submachine guns, but we definitely want their trees. At least a tree. C’moooon, please??? Earlier this year Norwegian authorities reported that they did not have the budget to send Iceland “The Oslo Tree,” a Christmas tree traditionally raised in front of Parliament every year for the holidays. We kicked and screamed loud enough to get the attention of the Oslo Business Council, who then “reassessed the situation,” and sent the tree after all.

If the tree isn’t exciting enough, here’s something to pop Dom Perignon’s new Iceland-inspired P2 champagne about: on November 21 the (now-former) Minister of the Interior, Hanna Birna Kristjánsdóttir, resigned from her position after receiving significant pressure from the public in the wake of that whole “leak affair.” A poll conducted by Vísir revealed a 60/40 divide in popular opinion, the majority calling on her to step down. Her resignation announcement came exactly one year and one day after the leak of the now infamous document.

With that, Hanna Birna less-than-gracefully exits the political scene5ae9c624e82967706, at least until 2015. Her former assistant, Gísli Freyr Valdórsson, was asked to exit the political scene as well, although through a different door. On November 12, Gísli was given an eight-month suspended prison sentence, after admitting to leaking the Tony Omos’ document. His intention, he has admitted, was, in fact, to influence media coverage.

With all of this political groping, it should probably come as no surprise that Icelanders’ trust in media is decreasingPressroom_of_the_New_York_Times_newspaper.8d22696v, according to a report by RÚV. And you can take their word for it, since RÚV came out on top as the most trustworthy news source in Iceland (good thing we don’t count as “media”). Despite their overall win, RÚV reports a decrease in public confidence along with every other media source surveyed, except for newspaper DV. Ironically, DV was recently acquired by the same publishing company that runs websites Pressan and Eyjan, the second-to-last and least-trusted news outlets included in the survey.

The report nicely complements recent outcries from the International Press Institute and Reporters Without Borders amputated_1-e1297426559213(in the same way ugly shoes complement an even uglier dress), which condemned Iceland’s actions regarding press freedom. Among matters of concern was Interior Minister assistant Þórey Vilhjálmsdóttir’s seeking of the maximum possible libel penalty for two DV journalists who misidentified her in the abovementioned Tony Omos document leak. Furthermore, the Interior Ministry has enacted a new rule requiring journalists to apply for individual permission through the Ministry’s social relations manager in order to get access to its staff. But, like we said, this convoluted mingling of press and politics is no news. It is, in a twisted way, just part of the tradition.

Kind of like the Oslo Christmas tree. And as demonstrated by the Oslo tree scare, we don’t mess around when it comes to tradition. Especially during the holidays. Which is why—in the tradition of Nordic countries sending each other trees—Iceland has generously gifted a tree of our own to the Faroe Islands. What goes around comes around, they say. So with that, let the P2 flow. We’ll see you in the New Year.

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