Iceland Receives Lowest Press Freedom Rank In Its History - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Iceland Receives Lowest Press Freedom Rank In Its History

Published February 13, 2015

Nanna Árnadóttir
Photos by
Courtesy of Reporters Without Borders

Iceland has dropped by 13 places down to 21st place in the Reporters Without Borders 2015 Press Freedom Index.

This is the lowest score any Nordic country has been given since the press freedom index was created in 2002.

All Nordic Nations were in the Top 5, except Iceland which now ranks 21st.

In 2014 Iceland ranked 8th, but even that was a drop compared to 2012 when Iceland ranked 6th for press freedom and of course 2010, when Iceland ranked first in the world for press freedom.

RÚV reports the drop is a result of the declining relationship between the government and the national media.

As reported, Reporters Without Borders (RWB) issued a statement 3 months ago expressing its concerns with the decline of freedom of information in Iceland during the last two years.

The organisation listed a number of infractions and worries, including the fact that “almost all of the leading media editors have had to stand down this year, with the noted exception of “Morgunblaðið editor Davíð Oddsson, who happens to be a former prime minister and former central bank governor”; the way in which Foreign minister Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson “imposed his own conditions on RÚV, refusing to give it interviews unless it sends him a copy of video before it is broadcast”; threatening statements towards RÚV’s news room, issued by Vigdís Hauksdóttir, member of Alþingi on behalf of the Progressive Party and budgetary committee chair; subsequent severe cuts in RÚV’s budget; a call made by that same Vigdís to readers and advertisers to boycott the web medium Kvennablaðið, after it published criticism of her — and more.

RWB went on to highlight the case of Interior Minister’s assistant, Þórey Vilhjálmsdóttir, who sought the maximum possible libel penalty for two journalists at DV who momentarily misidentified her as “employee B” in court documents related to the enduring case of the leaked Ministry memo which ultimately, last December, lead to the resignation of Hanna Birna Kristjánsdóttir.

Þóreý insisted on maximum damages despite the fact that the journalists issued a correction upon realising their mistake and within hours of publication. RWB said at the time that it “would set a disastrous precedent for freedom of information in Iceland.” Adding that as the Interior Ministry is in charge of human rights, Þórey “should be aware of her responsibilities in the domain of press freedom.”

Þóreý eventually settled out of court with the newspaper, against the journalist’s wishes.

Even the Grapevine met criticism from the government press secretary about its reportage of the Prime Minister in December.

On top of all of this, Icelanders’ trust in media has begun to decline.

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