In the Wednesday edition of Morgunbladid, the editors raise the issue of freedom of expression in the unsigned, daily column Staksteinar (“Miscellany”).
They observe that freedom of expression is guaranteed in the Icelandic constitution. When debate gets heated, however, it transpires that “support for this self-evident right can be limited”.
Morgunbladid defends its pratice of publishing articles submitted by the public and says its main guideline is not to publish any potentially libellous material. It also points out that it can not verify all claims made by the people it interviews and that facts, and even truth itself, can often be “a matter of dispute”.
Morgunbladid continues: “Worst of all is when it is demanded that some should be silenced while others can speak. Our society is based on equal rights. The ordinary citizen should be permitted to speak just like the minister. The poor just like the rich.”
“It is a sign of certain lack of maturity when attempts are made to limit the public’s right to expression, and it is ridiculus when people are so afraid of others’ points of view that they would prefer to prevent them from speaking.”
“But it is even worse when threats are used to try to silence members of the public and prevent them from making use of their constitutional rights.”
“There are journalists in Iceland who have direct experience of attempts to ‘terrorize’ them into keeping quiet about certain issues.”
“There is a lack of tolerance for other people’s views in Iceland.”
The Staksteinar article follows an interview in two parts with Jón Gerald Sullenberger which appeared in the Sunday and Monday editions of Morgunbladid. In 2002, Jón Gerald filed a complaint with the National Police which led the National Police to investigate the Icelandic investment company Baugur and later file charges against several of its current and former managers. The publication of the interview was greeted with a flurry of statements by the chairman and CEO of Baugur, Hreinn Loftsson and Jón Ásgeir Jóhannesson. The case is currently being tried in the District Court of Reykjavík.