Freedom of information in decline for past two years in Iceland

first_img What with an interior ministry official seeking jail terms for two journalists in a criminal libel prosecution and major budget cuts for public TV and radio stations that the ruling coalition has accused of bias, the past two years have seen a marked decline in freedom of information in Iceland, one that began with the financial crisis in 2008. Political interests have been having a negative impact on freedom of information in Iceland ever since the 2008 financial crash. Almost all of the leading media editors have had to stand down this year. The only exception is Morgunblaðið editor David Oddsson, who happens to be a former prime minister and former central bank governor. News Vigdís Hauksdóttir, a parliamentarian who is a member of the ruling coalition and chairs the budgetary committee, made typically critical comments about RUV in an August 2013 interview for Radio Bylgjan that was reported by Grapevine. “I think an unnatural amount of money goes to RUV,” she said. “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. Everyone who wants to see that can see it. I assure you this is true, and can confirm it whenever and wherever that (RUV) is very pro-EU.” Þórey Vilhjálmsdóttir, a political adviser to Iceland’s interior minister, is seeking two-year jail sentences for newspaper reporters Jón Bjarki Magnússon and Jóhann Páll Jóhannsson, who wrongly identified her as the source of a leak in story published on 20 June, although they issued a correction within hours. As well as quickly putting out a corrected version naming Gísli Freyr Valdórsson, another interior ministry adviser, as the source of the leak, they issued an apology in the form of a press release circulated to the media. Valdórsson, now on probation, has since been given an eight-month prison sentence for leaking information about a Nigerian asylum-seeker to several news outlets.Gísli Freyr Valdórsson has since been given an eight-month prison sentence for leaking information about a Nigerian asylum-seeker to several news outlets. The editor-in-chief of the broadcasting company RUV was fired along with the rest of its management in the wake of the director-general’s dismissal. 365 Media, the company that owns the biggest TV network, has reduced the number of its newsrooms and fired two of its chief editors, replacing them with the former spokeswoman for its owner’s husband, a leading figure in business circles. Several journalists left the company after the substitution. The pressure is continuing. Foreign minister Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson criticized the way RUV portrayed him in one of its reports. In March of this year, he imposed his own conditions on RUV, refusing to give it interviews unless it sends him a copy of video before it is broadcast. In the end, he was not interviewed at all. At the same time he, too, accused it of being too pro-EU in its coverage.As regards privately-owned media, Hauksdóttir issued a call on Facebook in February 2014 for a boycott of the newspaper Kvennablaðið after it criticized her, and she 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.” In a letter, Reporters Without Borders calls on Vilhjálmsdóttir to soften the complaint she has brought against the two journalists, so that it is more proportionate to the actual harm to her reputation.Iceland’s defamation laws have received a great deal of recent criticism from international bodies. The European Court of Human Rights has stressed the extremely negative impact of these laws on journalists and freedom of information, and the disproportionate nature of their penalties, while a recent International Press Institute report called them obsolete. Reporters Without Borders urges Iceland’s government to amend these laws. RSF_en center_img November 19, 2014 – Updated on January 20, 2016 Freedom of information in decline for past two years in Iceland Organisation A public broadcaster funded by a licence fee system until 2007, RUV became a state-owned compagny in 2008, its only share being held by the ministry of culture. A year later, the government assumed direct control of the source of its funding, and thereby direct control of its budget. And in the wake of this loss of structural independence, comments have been made about a lack of editorial independence. Between 2013 and 2014, the ruling right-wing coalition repeatedly criticized the treatment of the news coverage provide by RUV’s TV and radio channels, and used it as an excuse to reduce dramatically its budget. Indeed, the ruling coalition often questions the impartiality of the news coverage provide by RUV’s TV and radio channels, especially their coverage of European news. But a survey conducted by the consumer reporting agency Creditinfo found that positive and negative news reports about the European Union get equal space in RUV’s coverage. Meanwhile, public broadcasting under attack Such comments clearly put pressure on RUV’s journalists. A 20 percent cut in RUV’s budget was announced in December 2013, with the resulting loss of many journalists from RUV newsrooms. The European Broadcasting Union issued a statement condemning the cut, while former RUV director-general Páll Magnússon said: “Viewers will see a difference. Our listeners will hear it. (…) Our ability to provide news to the Icelandic public will be diminished, and newscasts will be shorter and fewer.” Reporters Without Borders regrets that Vilhjálmsdóttir is seeking the maximum possible libel penalty for the two journalists under criminal code articles 234 and 235 – two years in prison, damages of 3 million krónurs (19,000 euros) and legal fees of 900,000 krónurs (5800 euros) – because it would set a disastrous precedent for freedom of information in Iceland. The organization also underlines that the ministry of the interior is also in charge of human rights: Vilhjálmsdóttir should be aware of her responsibilities in the domain of press freedom. Help by sharing this informationlast_img read more

Women’s lacrosse keeps perfect season alive

first_imgThe women’s lacrosse team improved to 9-0 on the season after routing Oregon 17-4 at McAlister Field on Sunday.The Ducks threatened the Women of Troy early on, jumping out to an early 2-1 lead. Oregon’s attack looked menacing, as freshman attacker Shannon Williams opened the scoring just over two minutes into the game. Williams and her fellow attackers showed promising signs in the first few minutes, starting off with a strong pace.However, USC’s offense started clicking, as the Women of Troy turned a 2-1 deficit into a 7-2 lead over the course of just 20 minutes. USC head coach Lindsey Munday attributed the turnaround to discipline by her group, particularly at the defensive end.“Oregon had some long possessions early on in the game, and we didn’t change anything that we’ve been doing for the entire season,” Munday said.Munday praised her team for being patient and warding off the early danger with composure. The team stayed patient and then attacked. While Munday felt the chemistry between all seven attackers was a strong factor, she also noted how crucial sophomore goalie Gussie Johns’ performance was.Johns stood tall between the pipes and made some fine saves.“Just the improvement that we’ve seen in Gussie has been phenomenal,” Munday said.She explained that the sophomore has not only been stopping shots but also leading the defense.“[Johns is] just a tremendous leader,” Munday said. “She’s a really hard worker, and she’s never satisfied with where she’s at — she wants to continue to get better.”Johns made seven saves on the afternoon and continued to frustrate the visitors. But despite the lopsided score line, Oregon challenged Johns and the USC defense.“I think Oregon came in really prepared for this game,” Johns said. “They did a great job of making a game plan against us.”But USC’s dominant win can be attributed to something simple in theory but potentially tricky in reality: The group stuck to the game plan.“We try to just think about ourselves every single time,” Johns said.She added that this defensive unit sticks to its keys on and works well as a unit.With stifling defense, USC limited Oregon to meager offensive output. This has been a storyline all season for the Women of Troy, who have allowed just 13 goals in the last four games.While junior attacker Michaela Michael and senior attacker Caroline deLyra combined for 12 goals in the rout over Oregon, there is more to this team than a versatile offense. Likewise, this team is more than a defensive machine.In addition to success on the field, the team tries to enjoy the time they spend together off the field.“We make everything fun before games, not to take things too seriously,” deLyra said.DeLyra is visibly locked in when she is playing, but she feels the team’s jovial mood is a real asset on game day. Whether they are dancing during warm-ups or breaking down opposing defenses, the Women of Troy clearly have excellent camaraderie and it shows when they dominate teams on a regular basis.The team visits Fresno State on Thursday at 5 p.m.last_img read more