Iceland has approved a package of laws designed to make the country an
international haven for reporters. The laws, which were both inspired
and assisted by Wikileaks, offer sweeping speech protections for
individuals and groups. The laws protect the anonymity of anonymous
sources, empower whistle-blowers, and seek to expand the freedom of
information, as well as other provisions.
- Global Free Speech
Haven The New York Times' Noam Cohen explained when the
laws were introduced that Iceland wants to "become a haven for
journalists and publishers by offering some of the most aggressive
protections for free speech and investigative journalism in the world.
... much the way businesses relocate to countries like the Cayman
Islands or Switzerland to take advantage of legal protections and shield
laws for bank accounts, publications would relocate to Iceland — or at
least relocate their computer servers that publish their Web sites — in
order to get the benefits, and gain access to Iceland’s plentiful energy
- Could Media Companies Relocate to Iceland?
The U.K. Independent's Archie Bland writes, "Because
the package includes provisions that will stop the enforcement of
overseas judgements that violate Icelandic laws, foreign news
organisations are said to have expressed an interest in moving the
publication of their investigative journalism to Iceland. According to
[Icelandic legislator] Ms Jonsdottir, Germany's Der Spiegel and
America's ABC News have discussed the possibility."
- What It
Won't Protect Niemann Journalism Lab's Jonathan Stray notes,
"although the legislative package sounds very encouraging from a freedom
of expression point of view, it’s not clear what the practical benefits
will be to organizations outside Iceland. In his analysis
of the proposal, Arthur Bright of the Citizen Media Law Project has
noted that, in one major test case of cross-border online libel law,
'publication' was deemed to occur at the point of download — meaning
that serving a controversial page from Iceland won’t keep you from
getting sued in other countries. But if nothing else, it would probably
prevent your servers from being forcibly shut down."
Countries Must Reform TechDirt's Mike Masnick writes, "While it's a great
step forward for those who believe in protecting free expression, some
have pointed out that that it probably won't have that much of an actual
impact, because of the way most countries interpret jurisdictional
issues. That is, outside of Iceland, those press freedoms may be
effectively meaningless. I hope that's not actually true, but given the
way some recent rulings have gone, I wouldn't be surprised. Still, from
the standpoint of catalyzing important discussions about free expression
and protection of journalistic activities, hopefully it gets other
countries thinking about ways to fix their laws, rather than
relying on outdated regulations."
Iceland's Experience With Secrecy Salon's Glenn Greenwald explains a key motivation behind the laws'
that law because the extreme secrecy among their political/financial
elite is what enabled their economic collapse."
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