From Iceland — "Free Speech Fund" Created In Wake Of Controversial Court Ruling

“Free Speech Fund” Created In Wake Of Controversial Court Ruling

Published June 24, 2019

Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by
Art Bicnick

A controversial court ruling over libel has initiated the creation of a special fund aimed at providing assistance for those needing legal help for being charged with defamation.

The fund began with a ruling from Reykjavík District Court against Hildur Lilliendahl Viggósdóttir and Oddný Arnarsdóttir, who were found culpable of defamation due to remarks they made on social media about two men who were named in the media and accused of sexual assault. In the wake of these remarks, the two women were found guilty of libel and sentenced to pay the two men damages; Hildur, to pay 150,000 ISK in all and Oddný to pay each man 200,000 ISK.

While a lawyer for the two women told reporters that she expects her clients will appeal, a statement to the press reveals that a new fund has been started designed to help people who have ended up in a similar situation.

“The ruling has been widely criticised, as it sets a precedent where victims of gender-based violence are not allowed to speak up about the crimes against them and individuals are prohibited to support them publicly without a ruling,” the statement reads in part. “In a society where women’s safety is not taken seriously and cases of violence against women are most of the times dropped, this leads to almost total silencing of gender-based violence.”

Founded by Anna Lotta Michaelsdóttir, Elísabet Ýr Atladóttir, Helga Þórey Jónsdóttir and Sóley Tómasdóttir, the stated purpose of the fund is to “be able to sustain legal fees and possible compensation costs that may be ruled against those who speak up. This way we hope to counteract a system that scares people away from necessary discussions on gender-based violence and rape culture.”

The response thus far has been positive, having reach 64% of its goal of €20,000 within the first 24 hours of its creation.

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