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Iceland parliament approves measures to protect press freedoms

The Icelandic Parliament [official website, in Icelandic] on Wednesday voted 50-0 [vote count, in Icelandic] to pass sweeping media reform laws aimed at increasing protections for journalists and promoting freedom of speech and transparency in government. The Icelandic Modern Media Initiative (IMMI) [materials] was developed by lawmakers in conjunction with Wikileaks [advocacy website], a non-profit website focused on exposing corruption and unethical actions by governments and corporations. The measures were developed partially in response to Iceland's 2008 economic crisis [BBC backgrounder], where a close relationship between the government and the media has been blamed for a lack of warning about the impending crisis. Provisions in the bill include protection for anonymous sources, and protections against censorship and "libel tourism," and it is being touted as the strongest media protection law [Independent report] in any country. Iceland hopes that provisions in the new law prohibiting enforcement of judgments from other countries that violate the IMMI will encourage foreign news services to move their publication services to Iceland. Minor changes were made to the original draft of the bill [JURIST report] which was released in February, including adding additional responsibilities for the government [text, in Icelandic]. Under the final bill the government must perform a detailed analysis of the security surrounding data centers and they must also host an international conference to discuss the legal implications of increased Internet news reporting.

Iceland has historically been viewed as a country with strong protections for freedom of the press. That reputation took a hit in 2009, following the economic crisis, when it fell to ninth in the annual Worldwide Index of Freedom [press release] released by Reporters Without Borders (RWB) [advocacy website, in French]. Iceland had been ranked first in 2007 and 2008, and second in 2006 [JURIST reports].

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