New ethics guidelines set down by RÚV ban journalists from expressing opinions on current events on social media.
RÚV, Iceland’s public broadcasting network, now has new ethics rules for its employees. Amongst them is:
“Employees who oversee news reporting, news-related material and programming will not take public positions on the discussion of political matters or controversial matters in the public discussion, such as on social media. … Employees will be mindful to be impartial to political, ideological or economic interests in the treatment of material and in editorial decisions.”
These rules will have immediate effects not only on the social media activities of RÚV employees, but also on the numerous columns and opinion pieces that RÚV employees have written on other news and news discussion websites.
These new rules, however, may be unconstitutional. As Article 73 states, “[f]reedom of expression may only be restricted by law in the interests of public order or the security of the State, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights or reputation of others, if such restrictions are deemed necessary and in agreement with democratic traditions.”
Furthermore, the ethics guidelines of the Union of Icelandic Journalists states that “ethics guidelines do not restrict journalists’ freedom of expression to write under their full name in a limited area of the media, e.g. criticism, where the personal opinions of the author are in the forefront.”
RÚV has faced repeated accusations from the Progressive Party that they are biased towards leftists and pro-EU voices. MP and head of the parliamentary Budget Committee Vigdís Hauksdóttir has been amongst RÚV’s critics, having threatened to “review their funding” in light of what she considered to be biased reporting. Progressive MP Karl Garðarsson has also leveled similar criticism, going so far as to accuse RÚV of targeting the party.
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