Freedom of the press has been in decline in Iceland during the past two years. That’s the conclusion of Reporters Without Borders, which published a statement about the issue on its homepage yesterday.
The organization cites political assistant to Minister of the Interior Hanna Birna Kristjánsdóttir Þórey Vilhjálmsdóttir’s case against two journalists for libel, as well as cuts to national broadcaster RÚV, which the ruling coalition has accused of bias, as major threats to press freedom in Iceland.
Þórey is seeking the maximum possible libel penalty for the two journalists, two years in prison, as well as damages and the payment of legal fees.
The statement by Reporters Without Borders also highlights that many editors and journalists have lost their jobs over the past year.
Vigdís Hauksdóttir, MP for the Progressive Party and head of the parliamentary budget committee, said in an August 2013 interview on radio Bylgjan: “I think an unnatural amount of money goes to RÚV. Especially when they don’t do a better job at reporting the news. They are fond of a particular platform, and lean to the Left.” The broadcaster’s budget was cut by 20 percent in December 2013.
Vigdís also issued a call on Facebook in February 2014 to boycott Kvennablaðið after it criticized her. She also urged the cosmetics company EGF to “stop buying advertising” in Kvennablaðið. The Union of Icelandic Journalists condemned her calls as “attempts to obstruct freedom of expression.”
Reporters Without Borders is registered in France as a non-profit organization and has consultant status at the United Nations and UNESCO.
The full statement can be read here.