Iceland Parliament considering new measures to protect freedom of speech

Iceland Parliament considering new measures to protect freedom of speech

[JURIST] The Icelandic Parliament [official website, in Icelandic] began considering measures Tuesday aimed at increasing protections for journalists and promoting freedom of speech and transparency in government. The Icelandic Modern Media Initiative (IMMI) [text] was developed by lawmakers in conjunction with Wikileaks, a non-profit website focused on exposing corruption and unethical actions perpetrated by governments and corporations. The measures were developed [CP report] 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. Supporters of IMMI believe [BBC report] if the initiative is implemented, members of the international press and investigative journalists will be drawn to the country by the protective aspects of the law. Stated goals of the initiative include:

[T]o make Iceland an attractive environment for the registration and operation of international press organizations, new media start-ups, human rights groups and internet data centers. It promises to strengthen our democracy through the power of transparency and to promote the nation's international standing and economy. We can create a comprehensive policy and legal framework to protect the free expression needed for investigative journalism and other politically important publishing. While some countries provide basic measures, Iceland now has an opportunity to build an internationally attractive legislative package built from the best laws of other nations.

In order to benefit from the initiative, media outlets would need to set up an office or a server and publish from Iceland.

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].