Civil Liberties

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:

The pen is mightier than the battle axe.

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.