No Insulting Foreign Leaders In Iceland, Either - The Reykjavik Grapevine

No Insulting Foreign Leaders In Iceland, Either

Published April 19, 2016

Photos by
Art Bicnick

Germany is not the only country with a law prohibiting the ridicule of a foreign leader.

The case of Jan Böhmermann is making headlines around the world, as the comic is facing charges of breaking an obscure German law when he mocked Turkish president Recep Erdoğan. However, Iceland also has a similar law on the books – specifically, Article 95 of the General Penal Code, which states:

Anyone who officially disgraces a foreign nation or a foreign State, its superior official, Head of State, flag or other recognized symbol of nationality, the flag of the United Nations or the flag of the Council of Europe, shall be subject to fines, [or imprisonment for up to 2 years. In case of gross offence the penalty may be imprisonment for up to 6 years.]

The same punishment shall be applied to anyone who officially disgraces or otherwise utters abusive language, other insults in word or in deed, or defamatory imputations to other employees of a foreign State who are present in this Country.

The same punishment shall be applied to anyone who threatens or applies force against a diplomat of a foreign State in this Country or breaks into or causes damage in a diplomatic area or threatens such an act.

RÚV reports that Left-Green MP Steinunn Þóra Árnadóttir has proposed that this article be taken out of the penal code, for being antiquated and contradicting the universal right to freedom of expression.

Iceland has enforced this article in the past. On both occasions, it was to prosecute Icelanders who mocked the Third Reich in some capacity. In 1934, Þórbergur Þórðarson was charged under the law for an article he wrote about Germany at the time, wherein he called Adolf Hitler “the sadist in the German chancellor’s seat.” Further, Icelandic poet Steinn Steinarr was charged under the same law, when he and a group of others who torn down a Nazi flag flown by the German consulate in Siglufjörður.

Whether and when Article 95 will be stricken from the penal code still remains to be seen.


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