Iceland Parliament Votes for Strong Media Laws

Iceland’s parliament voted Thursday to create what supporters hope will be the world’s strongest protections for free speech and journalism, passing measures intended to make this Nordic nation a safe haven for investigative reporting. The legislation — passed unanimously with only a single abstention — requires the government to draft regulations changing Icelandic law to strengthen journalistic source protection and shield reporters from foreign libel judgments. While the measures were mainly aimed at improving the nation’s own transparency, Iceland hopes to lure Internet-based media and data centers that would use the country as a base of global free speech. Bolstering the media laws gained traction with Icelanders after the country’s devastating economic collapse in 2008, a crisis which many in Iceland said showed that relations between government and the media had become too cozy. Foreign reporters were the ones who uncovered much of the corruption in the small island nation’s financial system, prompting calls for improved access to information access and more protection for whistle-blowers. The proposed measures aim to counteract challenges to media freedom from other countries such as Britain, which has become known as a center for “libel tourism” because its libel laws heavily favor the plaintiff. They would also protect journalists against libel judgments issued in other countries — similar to U.S. legislation now being considered to shield American reporters from court judgments abroad


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