From Iceland — North Iceland District Court Rules Police Investigation Of Journalist Unlawful

North Iceland District Court Rules Police Investigation Of Journalist Unlawful

Published March 1, 2022

Andie Sophia Fontaine
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Northeast Iceland District Court has ruled that the police investigation of Stundin reporter Aðalsteinn Kjartansson is unlawful, RÚV reports, and that the grounds the police have used for the investigation are unsupported. Police intend to take the matter to the Appellate Court.

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As reported, a group calling itself the “Samherji guerilla division” sought to engage in damage control over the company’s revealed involvement in bribery and tax evasion related to their operations in Namibia. Communications between the people in this group were brought to light by four journalists, Aðalsteinn amongst them, and it is alleged that these communications were obtained from a phone stolen from Samherji ship captain Páll Steingrímsson. Icelandic law and international journalistic ethics protect journalists from having to reveal their sources, which prompted condemnation of the police questioning these journalists from Transparency International and numerous members of Parliament.

The police then changed tactics, and contended that there was pornographic material on this stolen phone, and that the suspected thief of the phone has told police that he handed over the phone to two separate journalists. Police believe the journalists shared the pornographic material between each other, which would not fall under protection of journalistic sources but rather constitute technological sexual violence.

However, the district court ruled that it is not unlawful for journalists to see sensitive material that is not in the public interest; that perusing and assessing documentation for reporting is a part of the job of journalism.

The court added that the ship captain in question did not go to the police about the pornographic material on his phone, nor is worried about its distribution. This was pointed out by Aðalsteinn’s lawyer, Gunnar Ingi Jóhannsson, who said that the charges did not include the distribution of this specific material.

Lastly, as Gunnar Ingi also pointed out, there is no evidence that Aðalsteinn nor others distributed this material amongst themselves. As such, the court ruled that the police cannot investigate or question Aðalsteinn on the grounds of being a suspect in a crime.

Police plan to appeal the matter to the Appellate Court, but there is as yet no set date on when that trial will happen.

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