Journalists Criticise Grindavík Access Restrictions Skip to content
Rescue workers assist Grindavík residents
Photo: Golli.

Journalists Criticise Grindavík Access Restrictions

The restricted access for journalists to the town of Grindavík is undermining the media’s role in reporting and accountability, two editors stated in an interview with RÚV yesterday. The Minister of Culture and Business Affairs has called for safe and reliable reporting from the area.

Restricted access since last Thursday

Journalists and reporters have not been allowed to enter the town of Grindavik since last Thursday when a system was implemented allowing only one cameraman and one photographer access to the area. They were then tasked with sharing their material with other media outlets. 

Yesterday, access for media personnel was completely restricted due to poor weather conditions. As noted by RÚV, the Union of Icelandic Journalists is considering actions in response to this ban. 

Media’s role being undermined

In an interview with RÚV yesterday, Erla Björg Gunnarsdóttir – editor of the newsroom of Vísir, Stöð 2, and Bylgjan – stated that the role of the media was being severely undermined: “The role of the media is to gather information, disseminate information, allow the public voice to be heard, and hold authorities accountable. These restrictions in Grindavik entirely prevent the media from fulfilling this role.” 

Þorsteinn Ásgrímsson Melén, assistant news editor of Mbl.is, agreed with Erla’s observations: “It’s not just that an entire town has been sidelined, it’s also the construction of these protective barriers, which are a massive undertaking.” 

“There’s a lot that needs to be monitored, and it’s natural for the media to keep an eye on things. Both for the residents, to be their eyes and ears on the ground, but also to check the power of the state,” Þorsteinn added.

Consideration is not everything

When asked whether the difficult circumstances facing Grindavík residents, and recent criticism of the media not showing adequate consideration, could have something to do with these restrictions, Þorsteinn replied: “Of course, consideration should always be shown, but if we always had to report on things from that standpoint alone, a large part of history would not be recorded.”

“Our journalists have heart,” Erla added. “They take precautions and show caution. The voices of Grindavík residents in recent days, those Grindavík residents who have participated in interviews, are so important. This is crucial for the public to gain some insight into the lives of these people.”

Both Erla and Þorsteinn expressed regret at the fact that there had been no consultation with the media regarding the current arrangement. “We are simply informed of how the arrangement is – and the arrangement is not suitable for the media,” Erla commented. “We need to stop treating the media like naughty children on a field trip to Grindavík. We cannot provide a convincing account of what is happening in Grindavík if we are not permitted entry”

“First and foremost, I would like to see this ban lifted,” Þorsteinn added. “I can see no reasonable explanation for the drone ban over the area, for example. No justification has been given.”

Restrictions contributing to misleading coverage

Speaking to RÚV yesterday, Lilja Alfreðsdóttir, the Minister of Culture and Business Affairs responsible for media affairs, expressed concern about the misleading coverage of the geological unrest in Reykjanes, especially in foreign media. She conjectured that this could be attributed to the media’s restricted access to Grindavík.

“I believe that enhancing safety measures, which I see as a priority, will benefit everyone. Once safety is assured, it’s crucial to improve the dissemination of information about the area. To achieve this, we need to ensure clearer access,” Lilja stated. “In my role as the Minister of Media, I place a strong emphasis on the importance of safe and reliable media coverage of the area. Regrettably, access has not seen the necessary improvements.”

When asked about improving access, Lilja stated that there had been extensive discussions among her fellow ministers about this issue, which had been brought up during a government meeting yesterday morning. 

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