During an open questions session of Parliament yesterday, RÚV reports, Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir said she was “startled” to learn that four journalists are to be questioned by police in a case that is tantamount to compelling them to reveal their sources, which contradicts Icelandic law and internationally recognised journalistic rights.
As reported, four journalists from Kjarninn, Stundin and RÚV will soon be questioned by North Iceland police over their coverage of fishing giant Samherji; specifically, their revelations of a group calling itself “the Samherji guerilla division” which sought to engage in damage control over the company’s revealed involvement in bribery and tax evasion related to their operations in Namibia.
While Samherji ship captain Páll Steingrímsson has told reporters that his police filing is not aimed at the journalists in question, but rather on trying to find out who stole his phone–which apparently contained communications between the people in the so-called Samherji guerilla division–that these journalists are going to be questioned by the police to find out who is responsible for this theft is tantamount to trying to compel journalists to reveal their sources.
As the case has drawn condemnation from Transparency International and several members of Parliament, little has been heard from Katrín on the matter, prompting Pirate Party MP Halldóra Mogensen to ask the Prime Minister what her opinion was of “the police deciding to question journalists due to their coverage of one of the largest Icelandic fishing companies, the same one being investigated for serious corruption and bribery charges“.
Katrín said that while it would be difficult to comment on a case that is still under investigation, especially as the police have revealed little about their investigations, “I do want to say that I was of course startled by the news that four journalists have been called in for questioning as suspects in connection to the reporting which they did, and we of course trust the police to be aware of the importance of the media.”
Katrín is not only Prime Minister, but also the chair of the Left-Green Party, which leads the government. Minister of Finance Bjarni Benediktsson, who is also the chair of the Independence Party, another party in the coalition, has publicly commented on the investigations on social media, wherein he expressed bewilderment that journalists would “consider themselves too good to respond to police questions,” asking, “We all make the demand in this country that everyone is equal before the law. Might we also demand that everyone is equal before the media too?”
In light of this, Halldóra also asked the Prime Minister if she had any thoughts on Bjarni’s remarks. Katrín did not answer the question directly, but instead said, “We have to trust that the justice system and the police operate in accordance to the law and regulations that are in place. There is a very clear position codified in law, such as the protection of journalistic sources.”
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