Association of Icelandic Journalists Resigns from the International Federation of Journalists

Sigríður Dögg Auðunsdóttir - Blaðamannafélag Íslands

In a statement on their website today, the Association of Icelandic Journalists announced that they would be leaving the International Federation of Journalists.

Alongside the Association of Icelandic Journalists (Blaðamannafélag Íslands, or BÍ) were its sister organisations in Norway, Denmark, and Finland. The organisations have repeatedly called for reforms to practices within the organisation.

BÍ Chairperson Sigríður Dögg Auðunsdóttir stated: “The reason for the termination is that IFJ has proved unable to make improvements in its operations in accordance with criticism from the Nordic Journalists’ Association and other associations, which has been ongoing for more than ten years. We are dissatisfied with the organisation of elections and the lack of transparency in decision-making.”

Central to the recent decision was IFJ’s response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine last year. In BÍ’s statement, they cite how regional journalistic associations have been established in occupied areas of Ukraine, and how these associations have been admitted to IFJ and thereby recognised as legitimate. BÍ cites similar instances in contested areas of Georgia as well. Similarly, the choice to host the latest IFJ general assembly in Oman, a nation with strict press censorship, has called into question the association’s commitment to a free press.

Sigríður continued: “This is not an easy decision, but we cannot be a member of an international journalistic organisation whose working practices, culture, and decision-making do not meet our demands for transparency and democratic process.”

As BÍ’s bylaws require it to be a member to IFJ, the vote needed to be approved by a general meeting. Now, the resignation begins a six-month waiting period. BÍ is expected to leave IFJ by this July.

In their statement, BÍ state that they will continue their membership in and cooperation with EFJ, the European Federation of Journalists.

 

Web-Media Journalists on Strike Until 18:00 Today

At 10:00 AM this morning, reporters, photographers, and videographers for online media went on an eight-hour strike. The strike is organised by the Union of Icelandic Journalists (BÍ) and will extend to four media outlets: Fréttablaðið, Morgunblaðið, RÚV, and Vísir.

During the first strike, which occurred last Friday, November 8, several journalists at Morgunblaðið (among them contractors and managers) – who do not normally write news on www.mbl.is – filled in for their colleagues, in an act that was condemned by Morgunblaðið’s web-media journalists. RÚV was also accused of violating the strike. The Union of Icelandic Journalists has since sued the Confederation of Icelandic Enterprise over these violations.

As the majority of web-media journalists employed by Vísir and Fréttablaðið are members of the Union of Icelandic Journalists, it is likely that no news will be published on the two companies’ websites today. Given that a large portion of journalists on RÚV are members of The Society of Broadcast Journalists (a different union), the strike will likely have a smaller impact on RÚV’s website (the Society of Broadcast Journalists did, however, declare their support for their colleagues’ strike).

Further Strikes in the Offing

Members of the Union of Icelandic Journalists voted to strike in early November (for the first time in 40 years), after ten months of negotiation failed to produce an agreement between the Confederation of Icelandic Enterprise and the union. Of 211 members, 131 voted, with over 83% in support of the strike.

If no agreement is reached over the next few days, the aforementioned group of web-media journalists will go on a twelve-hour strike next Friday, November 22. If no agreement is reached after that date, journalists at Fréttablaðið and Morgunblaðið will also go on strike on November 28.

Representatives from the Union of Icelandic Journalists met with the Confederation of Icelandic Enterprise yesterday. After the meeting, Hjálmar Jónsson, Chairman of the Union of Icelandic Journalists, stated that the two parties were far from reaching an agreement. Halldór Benjamín Þorbergsson, Chairman of SA, stated that the demands of journalists extend beyond the Standard of Living Agreement (a collective bargaining agreement signed in April of this year by various Icelandic unions that emphasises “improved wages for lower-paid workers”). According to Halldór, an offer similar to other offers made to members of SA had been extended toward the Union of Iceland Journalists, which the Union declined.