Iceland – first steps for a new media haven

By EDRi · June 30, 2010

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Deutsch: [Island: Erste Schritte zu einem neuen Medienhafen |]

Iceland’s Parliament has recently accepted a proposal by Icelandic Modern
Media Initiative (IMMI) asking the Icelandic Government to find “ways to
strengthen freedoms of expression and information freedom in Iceland, (and
provide) strong protections for sources and whistleblowers.”

The proposal from IMMI came after secret dealings by a few banks in Iceland
in 2009 leading to enormous debts and the lack of regulation and control,
almost bankrupted the entire country. The initiative comes also in relation
to website Wikileaks, who made those Icelandese dealings public and which
has a policy to make public secretly-submitted documents and materials.

Its approval by the Parliament may turn Iceland into a haven for media, with
one of the strongest freedom of expression and whistleblowing protection
laws. “We can create a comprehensive policy and legal framework to protect
the free expression needed for investigative journalism and other
politically important publishing,” says IMMI.

The IMMI has proposed several legal reforms including the limitation of the
scope of an exception to existing source protection laws, the increase of
protections for whistleblowers employed by the state and the creation of a
law similar to the free speech-protecting anti-SLAPP (Strategic Litigation
against Public Participation) law of California.

The plan intends to take advantage of protections in Iceland for material
published from web servers based there. “Iceland could become an ideal
environment for Internet-based international media and publishers to
register their services, start-ups, data centers and human rights
organizations. It could be a lever for the economy and create new work
employment opportunities,” says the initiative.

Speaking at a meeting of the European Parliament on 21 June, MP Birgitta
Jónsdóttir said the Icelandic initiative “pulls together the best
legislation from around the world to promote transparency” and suggested
that such measures for the protection of sources may also be brought in
Europe. “The right and ability to communicate knowledge is above most other
rights. We must take care when regulating freedom of speech, because that
speech is what all other rights are founded upon,” said Jónsdóttir.

For those who suffer from breaches of confidence, according to Struan
Robertson, a technology lawyer with Pinsent Masons, there will be some
safeguards. “If Iceland is granting immunity to websites that host leaked
documents, and if it’s prepared to reject take-down orders from foreign
courts, that gives the overseas content owner a real problem when the threat
of domestic sanctions fails to deter a leak. The proposal does not affect
copyright law, though. So it may be that take-down demands based on
copyright infringement will be more effective than those based on breach of

Icelandic parliament backs ‘free speech haven’ plan (21.06.2010)

Videos of proposal’s vote (only in Icelandic)

Icelandic Modern Media Initiative (IMMI)

A Vision of Iceland as a Haven for Journalists (21.02.2010)

EU ‘must act as role model’ in promoting free speech (23.06.2010)