Three survivors went to the emergency room after being reportedly sexually assaulted at last weekend’s Merchants Holiday Festival in the Westman Islands. The police chief of the Westman Islands contends that such crimes are a part of large festivals, despite evidence to the contrary.
RÚV reports that three young women checked into the emergency room of the Landspítali hospital in Reykjavík to treat and investigate injuries sustained after being reportedly sexually assaulted at the festival. During this time, as reported, Westman Islands chief of police Páley Borgþórsdóttir had issued a media embargo to responders and festival staff to tell no reporters about any sexual assaults which might happen at the festival.
In fact, the Westman Island’s police blotter goes into detail about arrests made due to overdrinking, fights, and drug possession – but not sexual assault.
In response to the news of the sexual assaults, Páley told Vísir that while the sexual assaults were “dead serious”, they are also unavoidable.
“Unfortunately, when so many people get together, and this is in all societies, these things happen,” she said. “Whether it’s a national festival or the middle of the week some place out in the countryside, they happen.”
However, it bears noting that at this year’s Eistnaflug Music Festival – in which some 3,000 people were in attendance – there were no reported sexual assaults or other violent crimes.
The Journalists’ Union of Iceland has harshly criticised the media embargo, issuing a statement to the effect.
“This attempt at silencing that is put forward is completely out of touch with the central point of view that an informed and open discussion in a democratic society must be supported,” the statement reads in part. “We encourage all police officers and other responders to report on assaults, sexual assaults or otherwise which are known to happen at this festival, openly, and with the public good in mind.”
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