Low Press Freedom In Iceland Cause For Concern - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Low Press Freedom In Iceland Cause For Concern

Published April 20, 2016

Photos by
Reporters Without Borders

Press freedom is still considerably low in Iceland, and Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has expressed concerns in their yearly report.

A new report from RSF on the global state of press freedom includes Iceland, and the review is mixed. While Iceland did move from the 21st seat in 2015 to 19th today, it still has the lowest press freedom ranking of any of the other Nordic countries:

“In June 2010, Iceland’s parliament unanimously adopted the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative (IMMI), an unprecedented initiative aimed at turning Iceland into a judicial haven for investigative journalism and sensitive online media. It also aims to defend whistleblowers and provide protection against “libel tourism.” However, although the constitution guarantees “absolute” freedom of expression, the situation of journalists has deteriorated since 2012 because of worsening relations between politicians and the media.”

This relationship between politicians and the media in Iceland has been covered extensively by The Grapevine.

As reported last year, the RSF cited a number of examples of worrying behaviour between the government and the press. For example, they cited “extremely negative impact” of Iceland’s defamation law on journalists and freedom of information”, as well as “the disproportionate nature of their penalties”.

Furthermore, they pointed out last year 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”; how former Minister of Foreign Affairs 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 national broadcasting network RÚV, issued by Progressive MP Vigdís Hauksdóttir, followed be severe cuts in RÚV’s budget; Vigdís exhorting readers and advertisers alike to boycott the news site Kvennablaðið after it published criticism of her, and other offenses.

In their 2014 report, RSF articulated their concerns about the ruling coalition targeting RÚV, saying:

“Indeed, the ruling coalition often questions the impartiality of the news coverage provide by RUV’s TV and radio channels, especially their coverage of European news. But a survey conducted by the consumer reporting agency Creditinfo found that positive and negative news reports about the European Union get equal space in RUV’s coverage.”

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