Minister of Justice Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir has submitted a bill which, if passed, would amend Iceland’s current laws on libel and slander to err more on the side of freedom of expression and follow the recommendations of the European Court of Human Rights.
The language of the bill places emphasis on ensuring that people cannot be sued for libel or slander if the things said or written are factual or, if not factual, were believed in good faith to be so. This is especially the case if these remarks are believed, in good faith, to be of significant relevance to the general public.
These changes are hoped to put Iceland in a better position when it comes to freedom of expression. As reported, the European Court of Human Rights had found, in several Icelandic cases, that Iceland’s current laws on libel and slander go directly against European laws on freedom of expression.
“[By passing this law], it touches in fact all the people of Iceland, as freedom of expression ensures that the national discussion which is necessary in a democratic society can continue,” Áslaug told reporters.
In keeping with this, the final article of the bill proposes the removal of a single word from Article 88 of the General Penal Code: “insults”.
Article 88, as it stands now, states: “Anyone who publicly recommends or promotes in a speech or publication that a foreign state starts hostile measures against the Icelandic state or interferes in its issues, as well as anyone who is at risk of such interference with insults, physical assaults, property damage and other acts likely to cause such danger, shall be imprisoned for up to 6 years.”
The bill has already been submitted to Parliament, and awaits debate and possible passage.
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