Former Prime Minister and Central Bank governor Davíd Oddsson has been hired to edit Icelandic daily Morgunbladid along with Haraldur Johannessen, former editor of Vidskiptabladid business weekly, as the newspaper’s owner Óskar Magnússon announced yesterday.
Davíd Oddsson during his years as chairman of the Independence Party. Copyright: Icelandic Photo Agency.
Morgunbladid’s former editor, Ólafur Th. Stephensen, announced his resignation last week.
Magnússon also announced during a meeting with the employees of the publishing house Árvakur, that 30 of the company’s employees had been laid off, mbl.is reports.
Additionally, temporary contracts will not be renewed, so a total of 40 employees will lose their jobs at Árvakur. Many of those who were laid off had worked for Morgunbladid for decades.
Magnússon said that he intended to maintain the trust that Árvakur’s media enjoyed among the public. “We will continue to report on everything important in an objective, honest and fair manner.” He added that the purpose with these changes at Árvakur is to stabilize its operations.
A group of investors led by Magnússon took over the heavily-indebted publishing house earlier this year.
Among journalists who will continue to write for Morgunbladid is Agnes Bragadóttir, who told RÚV radio that while she finds it sad to bid farewell to many of her colleagues and friends, she is excited to work with the new editors, who she believes will do a good job.
However, Kristín Ásgeirsdóttir, chairwoman of the Icelandic Journalist Association, who is one of those that were laid off at Morgunbladid, told visir.is that, “I am happy about being in the group of the good people who are leaving Morgunbladid at these circumstances,” adding:
“To the owners of Morgunbladid I’d like to say that […] if the newspaper is going to be changed into a tight-angled party paper, some sort of a guard tower for special interests of a certain division within the Independence Party, then the three billion that the Icelandic public wrote off so that the current owners could buy the paper was extremely poorly spent.”
Oddsson was chairman of the Independence Party 1991-2005.
The board of the Icelandic Journalist Association released a statement last night, saying that they regret the mass-layoffs at Morgunbladid, pointing out that while journalists with decades of experience are laid off in the name of rationalization, the number of editors are being increased from one to two.
The Journalist Association also believes that the decision of Morgunbladid’s owners to hire a controversial politician as the editor of Morgunbladid will undermine the newspaper’s credibility.
Oddsson’s involvement with politics and his work as Central Bank governor connect him with the economic collapse last autumn to such a degree that journalists cannot accept his appointment, the association reasons.
The association expresses deep concern about the position of the media in Iceland where hundreds of journalists have lost their jobs in the past weeks and months, the statement concludes.
The new editors will assume their duties today.