Samherji Accuses Reporters of Breaching Ethics Guidelines Skip to content

Samherji Accuses Reporters of Breaching Ethics Guidelines

By Yelena

Þorsteinn Már Samherji
Photo: Samherji CEO Þorsteinn Már Baldvinsson.

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.

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