The Suðurnes police commissioner has limited access to Grindavík for journalists since the January 14 volcanic eruption. Sigríður Dögg Auðunsdóttir, the president of the Union of Icelandic Journalists, told Heimildin that it was dystopian and surrealistic that the commissioner was “applying censorship and limiting journalists’ freedom of speech by limiting journalists’ access to the area with no rational cause.”
The January 14 volcanic eruption near Grindavík destroyed three houses, caused crevasses to form across town, and displaced the 3,800 inhabitants for the foreseeable future. The town had already been evacuated once before, on November 10 last year, due to seismic activity. Grindavík residents await a government decision on how they can be helped while displaced.
Major historical event
Journalists were allowed to enter Grindavík yesterday for two hours. This was the first time they’ve been allowed to enter since January 15. Authorities say that the restrictions are due to consideration for the residents and the vast emergency response in the area. The police have not received any written requests from residents asking them to limit journalists’ access to the town.
Sigríður Dögg says that journalists should be allowed to document major historical events, such as last weekend when residents transported their belongings from the danger area. “Especially since the commissioner has no legal foundation for these restrictions, she said.”
Chaperoned visit on a bus
The journalists were herded into a bus and chaperoned by emergency response personnel. A special unit police officer decided where the bus went. A half-dozen stops were made in town, limited to areas with crevasses or damages, but nowhere near people. Only two areas were designated for flying drones to photograph. Heimildin reports that attending journalists were unhappy with the arrangements.
In November, the union petitioned the Ministry of Justice to increase access to the danger area, but the ministry has not responded. “History has shown us that documentation of major events in Iceland’s history is incredibly important going forward,” Sigríður added. “Especially for those who experienced the disaster.”