Samherji Accuses Reporters of Breaching Ethics Guidelines

Þorsteinn Már Samherji

Seafood company Samherji’s claims RÚV reporters breached the national broadcaster’s code of ethics when they discussed the company on social media. Samherji’s lawyer has filed a complaint with RÚV’s Ethics Committee, claiming that social media posts made by 11 RÚV reporters between November 2019 and August 2020 breached their ethics code, which requires reporters to refrain from taking a public stance on political issues. Samherji made international headlines last year after an investigation by RÚV, Stundin, and Al Jazeera, alleged that the company had bribed Namibian government officials to gain access to lucrative fishing grounds, while also taking advantage of international loopholes to avoid taxes.

Read More: Samherji Scandal

According to a notice on Samherji’s website, the complaint is based on a rule in RÚV’s code of ethics that states “Staff, who cover news, news-related material, and programming do not take a public stance in discussions on political issues or controversial issues in the public debate, incl. on social media.” Therefore, the complaint itself asserts, the RÚV employees “cannot, in light of their behaviour on social media, be considered objective when it comes to coverage of [Samherji].”

Eleven reporters and programmers are named in the complaint: Aðalsteinn Kjartansson, Freyr Gígja Gunnarsson, Helgi Seljan, Lára Ómarsdóttir, Rakel Þorbergsdóttir, Sigmar Guðmundsson, Snærós Sindradóttir, Stígur Helgason, Sunna Valgerðardóttir, Þóra Arnórsdóttir, and Tryggvi Aðalbjörnsson. Two of the reporters named were awarded for their investigative reporting on Samherji by the Union of Icelandic Journalists last year.

Shared Satire of Samherji

The social media posts that Samherji has compiled in their complaint mostly reference the company’s activities in Namibia, although they extend to other cases directly and indirectly involving Samherji, including ownership of companies in the fisheries sector and shareholding in freight company Eimskip. One post the complaint lists as unacceptable involves an oil painting, pictured below.

The painting, by artist Þrándur Þórarinsson, shows Samherji CEO Þorsteinn Már Baldvinsson and Iceland’s Minister of Fisheries Kristján Þór Júlíusson on board a ship with Samherji’s logo, toasting with champagne while four fishermen, sporting skulls instead of faces, toil away in the background. Reporter Aðalsteinn Kjartansson shared the post without comment. “By sharing the post, Aðalsteinn agrees with the artist’s message, which is negative toward [Samherji],” the complaint asserts.

Samherji is demanding that RÚV’s ethics committee rule the posts as a violation of the national broadcater’s code of ethics, as well as determine whether some involve repeated violations.

Read more on the Samherji investigation and the challenges facing Icelandic media today.

Historical GDP Drop in Iceland Still Less than Predicted

Central Bank

Iceland’s Gross Domestic Product decreased by 9.3% in the second quarter of 2020 compared to the same period in 2019, according to estimates from Statistics Iceland. It is the largest fall in quarterly GDP since Statistics Iceland began measuring economic growth on a quarterly basis. The drop, however, was less drastic than predicted, and Iceland has experienced less of a downturn than most of mainland Europe. The winter ahead is expected to be difficult.

The COVID-19 pandemic and measures taken to counter its spread had a clear economic impact in Iceland in the second quarter of this year. Employment declined by 11.3% compared with the same quarter in 2019. Domestic demand dropped by 7.1% and household expenditure by 8.3%, while government expenditure rose by 3%. Travel restrictions had a significant effect on both imports and exports of services during the period. Exports decreased by 38.8% while imports decreased by 34.8% compared to the same period last year.

Better than Expected

Iceland’s GDP has decreased for two quarters in a row, generally indicative of a recession. Though the newly-released figures are hardly encouraging, Gylfi Zoega, Professor of Economics at the University of Iceland, says they are better than expected. “The Central Bank expected an 11% contraction in the second quarter, but it has now come to light that it is 9.3%. So what this new news is saying is that this is a slightly smaller contraction and that the situation is a little better, not much better, but a little better than expected,” Gylfi told RÚV. One factor that has softened COVID-19’s economic impact in Iceland is that locals have been spending more domestically. Government measures to stimulate the economy and the Central Bank’s lowering of interest rates have also had a positive impact, Gylfi stated.

Iceland’s 9.3% contract is also smaller than that of many countries in mainland Europe, as the numbers in Statistics Iceland’s report show. The European Union as a whole experienced a contraction of 11.7% in GDP, while the decrease was 20.4% in the United Kingdom, 18.5% in Spain, and 13.8% in France.

economic recession europe stats iceland
Statistics Iceland.

Challenging Winter Ahead

In a televised interview yesterday, Governor of Iceland’s Central Bank Ásgeir Jónsson outlined some of the reasons Iceland had come out of the second quarter relatively well. “First of all, we are an island and we actually managed to get control of the virus relatively early. Then there is a lot of so-called ‘monetary leeway’ in Iceland. Interest rates were so high when this shock started, so we were able to lower interest rates significantly and get relatively strong stimulus through monetary policy and stimulate private consumption and more.”

A recent poll found 38% of employers expected to resort to layoffs in the coming months, while only 6% planned to hire staff. Ásgeir stated that the coming winter could indeed prove difficult. “There will be problems ahead but I believe we can solve them,” he stated in a television interview yesterday. “We still have some cards up our sleeves and we will respond to this recession and try our best to ensure that it affects the nation as little as possible.”

Iceland’s Time Zone to Remain Unchanged

Iceland is in the

Iceland’s clocks will not be turned back one hour, the government has decided. This is the result of more than two years of discussions, a considerable amount of input from the public as well as expert opinions.

While Iceland follows the UTC, geographically speaking, it would make sense to move the clocks back one hour. After a thorough investigation of the advantages and disadvantages of changing the local time to better align with solar time, the government concludes that the arguments in support of the change aren’t strong enough to justify the vast changes involved with moving the clocks back. While the time shift would lead to more sunlight in the morning, the strongest argument for the status quo is that it would lead to 13% fewer daylight hours during waking hours over a year. The change could negatively influence the time locals spend outdoors and exercising.

Read more on why Iceland was considering moving the clock back one hour.

The government wants to find other ways to combat the adverse health effects of the discrepancy between local and solar time. It has decided to charge the Minister of Health to start an educational campaign on the importance of sleep and to estimate Icelandic sleeping hour habits before and after the campaign, in collaboration with the Director of Health. The Minister of Education and Culture will report on ongoing efforts to improve children and teenagers’ sleeping habits, such as starting school days later. She will also introduce more experimental programs intended to improve sleeping habits and monitor their success.


Sara Björk Wins European Championship

sara björk gunnarsdóttir football european champion

Icelandic football player Sara Björk Gunnarsdóttir has won the 2020 UEFA Champions League alongside her team Olympique Lyonnais. In the finals last Saturday, Sara became the first Icelander to score a goal in a European championship match. Lyon snatched the title with a 3-1 victory against Sara’s former club Wolfsburg.

“I’m just coming back down to Earth and realising that I’ve become a European champion,” the midfielder said in an interview with Vísir yesterday. “It’s been a dream and a goal for a really long time. It’s unbelievably sweet to have the title in your hands.”

Lyon, which has often been called the strongest women’s team in the world, acquired Sara just this year. The club is defending champion of Division 1 Féminine, having won the league for 14 consecutive seasons, a world record in any sport. This is its seventh Champions League title.

Sara thanked her well-wishers in an Instagram post this morning, saying she was “proud to be an Icelander.” She dedicated her title to the girls and boys who dream of making a career in football. “There are no limits.”–/