The Prime Ministry has issued a statement in response to media coverage of Sunday’s solidarity march in Paris, at which no Icelandic high official was present. According to the statement, the Ministry thinks that, in retrospect, it would have been proper for some high official to attend the march. This was reported by RÚV.
Interviewed by Bylgjan, Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson agrees with Finance Minister Bjarni Benediktsson, that, in retrospect, it is unfortunate that no minister attended the event.
The ministry’s statement reiterates that the Ministry did investigate if ministers were able to attend, but that this proved to be hard, due to “various factors”. The statement also notes that the French ministry has, nonetheless, reiterated French authorities’ gratitude towards Icelanders for their response and the solidarity shown in the wake of the attack.
In the interview, he furthermore disclosed that recently, he has spent his evenings reading articles in various media, and realised that many people are currently worried about the status of freedom of speech: “People raise big questions about this, and you see in the papers of liberals, ranging from liberal right wing parties to liberal communists —who I didn’t even know existed until I started probing this— that freedom of expression is going through rough times, that there are things people do not dare speak about, that the limits imposed, in Western countries, on what you can talk about at all, are too tight.”
Asked whether this applies to Iceland, the minister said that “yes, there are many things in our society to which this criticism relates.”
The recognition that a high official should have attended comes after former Ambassador to France, Einar Benediktsson, as well as Sören Haslund, Denmark’s former Ambassador to France, publicly criticised Icelandic authorities for the absence of ministers in the march.