In response to ongoing attacks by the Icelandic fishing company Samherji against several Icelandic journalists for their coverage of the Fishrot scandal, the Namibia Media Professionals Union (NAMPU) has issued a statement wherein they condemn Samherji’s attacks and defend the journalists in question.
When news broke of the scandal in November 2019, it was brought to light that Samherji was alleged to have bribed several Namibian officials in exchange for exclusive fishing rights in Namibian waters. The company immediately went into damage control.
Samherji furthermore filed complaints against 11 employees of RÚV, one of the media outlets who reported on the story, which included Helgi Seljan, to RÚV’s ethics committee. This committee, while noting that freedom of expression is constitutionally protected, nonetheless ruled that Helgi Seljan’s comments on social media about the matter constituted a serious violation of RÚV’s code of ethics.
Samherji’s actions were underlined by Reporters Without Borders in part of their detailing of why Iceland had slipped down a spot on their World Press Freedom Index for 2021.
NAMPU’s statement condemns Samherji’s actions, stating in part:
NAMPU condemns Samherji’s actions in this regard and urges the company to immediately stop the harassment of journalists working on the Fishrot story.
The company, while having the right to respond to the claims against it, should not seek to suppress public scrutiny of its role in the Fishrot scandal.
We stand in solidarity with our colleagues in Iceland who have now fallen victim to Samherji’s intimidation and harassment because of their work on the Fishrot corruption.
In addition, we call on the employers of journalists and the authorities dealing with media freedom in Iceland to do their utmost to ensure reporters can continue to work in the public interest by exposing corruption.
Journalists should also have the right to defend themselves against Samherji’s attacks on their own social media accounts.
Lastly, we encourage journalists around the world, and especially in Europe, to offer their support to their Icelandic colleagues and condemn intimidation from commercial entities.
The full statement can be read here.
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