Vikings for the Free Press

It's been a few years since anyone looked to Iceland for wise public policy, but the country is now considering an excellent idea. Much as other nations have established themselves as tax havens, Iceland is mulling a proposal to become a free press haven:

In recent months a group of local and international people has been working on an initiative here in Iceland to propose reforms in media- and freedom of expression law, with the goal of creating the best environment for publication in the world. The method has been to adopt the strongest protective laws that exist in the world, such as the Swedish press freedom law, the Belgian source- and communications protection law, the New York Libel Terrorism Protection law, and so on, and bundle them into a broad proposal.

As the freedom of expression is constantly eroded, with recent examples of a source secrecy ban in Ethiopia, a draconian data retention policy being enacted in Belarus, and even in supposed liberal democracies, laws such as the FRA law in Sweden, censorship lists in various countries including Australia, Sweden and Norway, and more than 300 secret gag orders in the United Kingdom, the need for a place where the right to know is guarded and the right to share knowledge is upheld becomes ever greater.

The BBC's Chris Vallance reports that some Icelandic MPs have endorsed the effort, and that Wikileaks is pushing hard for it as well. I doubt it'll get anywhere -- when someone suggests a decent piece of legislation, my default assumption is always that it will die -- but I'd be delighted to be proved wrong.

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  • Nitori Kawashiro||

    It'll be funny if somebody pasted the identity of everybody behind Wikileaks on the internet; you know, freedom of speech and all. There's something of an uncomfortable moral double standard behind that website.

  • virginia||

    Is it illegal to post that information?

  • Nitori Kawashiro||

    Is it illegal to post the private details of private citizens on the internet? I think so. I'm just thinking of when Wikileaks did that with the BNP members.

    If you're American and unfamiliar with them, the BNP are a strange corporatist/socialist "nationalize everything" party that chimes with Old Labour voters and has become more popular in recent years. Problem is it was founded by neo-Nazis and has had a white-only membership rule until a few days ago. What's fantastically ironic is that now the government has forced them to accept non-white members a Sikh (Rajinder Singh) may be the public face of the party!

    I don't care much for the BNP but I don't like the double standard that we're allowed to post people's private details online so long as the people in question are considered to believe in the wrong thing, so to speak. That seems more like a political purge than an issue of free speech. And the institutionalized call to vigilantism that followed the leak shocked even me. Since the population of the UK is civil (if not economic) libertarian the calls went unheeded.

    One thing I'll add here that really, really annoys me is how whenever the British press refers to the BNP they always damn them as “far-right” while acknowledge that they're national socialists (“nationalist/socialist” type not “kill all Jewish people” type). Rightwing socialist is a frickin' oxymoron!

  • Rich||

    I'm thinking if this passes Iceland will have to beef up security.

    "Hate speech" and "blasphemy" seem to breed violence.

  • ||

    The United States is Iceland's security.

  • P B||

    For now. I think that depends upon how this whole free press thing plays at the UN.

  • ||

    Maybe Iceland could just, you know, copy the First Amendment, and just, like, follow it word for word? Just like the Supreme Court doesn't do?

  • OMG||

    Well, it's easy for those Iceland people to follow the (outdated) text of the 1st amendment because they're, like, a country full of ice and so no one can shout fire in a theatre (because, you know ice doesn't catch fire). We aren't so lucky because we're not all icy and stuff. So someone can shout fire in a theatre and we can restrict that speech! Of course, it naturally follows that all corporate speech and other speech of groups of persons who we don't like can be restricted whenever we deem that it is "fire like".

    See?

  • ||

    No.

  • OMG||

    Your sarcasm detector must be acting up again, knock it against the wall a bit and then read the comment again

  • ||

    So Ricardo's comparative advantage has devolved to just being the country that restricts natural rights least?

  • affenkopf||

    Fine by me.

  • zoltan||

    Let me know when they print some cartoons of Mohammed and I'll believe them.

  • ||

    As the freedom of expression is constantly eroded, with recent examples

    Hey, we weren't on the list!

    USA USA USA!

    (Unless the US was supposed to be in there and some sort of Govt media filter removed it)

  • ||

    My proposal:

    1) Government may not interfer with any non-violent and non-fraudulent activity by the press.

    2) Extend the definition of "press" to cover bloggers, commenters on blogs and forums, and anyone who is considering commenting on blogs and forums, and for good measure, anyone who has the potential to express themselves.

  • ||

    Almost there, Brandybuck. Try this:

    Government may not interfere with any non-violent and non-fraudulent activity by the press anyone.

  • ||

    +1million

  • ||

    That's what I said. Since everyone has the potential ability to express themselves, the first point extends to anyone.

  • ||

    Yawn. It's not as if they are doing something controversial like abolishing copyrights.

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