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Initiating Freedom of Expression and Information

February 15, 2010

Today the proposal for parliamentary resolution for the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative was released to the public. IMMI is the brainchild of WikiLeaks founders Julian Assange and Daniel Schmitt, who are riding the wave of enthusiasm that followed their suggestion to turn rebuild Iceland around an off-shore publication industry, instead of off-shore financing. WikiLeaks is not formally responsible for this initiative as the authors have put the idea into the hands of the public and, this month, into the hands of the Icelandic parliament.

The proposal calls upon parliament to “[find] ways to strengthen freedoms of expression and information freedom in Iceland, as well as providing strong protections for sources and whistleblowers.” Parliament is being asked Tuesday, and will be debating this February, to resolve behind these goals.

  1. the legal environment should be explored such that the goals can be defined and changes to law or new law proposals can be prepared.
  2. the legal environments of other countries should be considered, with the view to assemble the best laws to make Iceland leading in freedoms of expression and information.
  3. the first Icelandic international prize should be established, The Icelandic Freedom of Expression Award.

With the goal of improving democracy, as firm grounding will be made for publishing, whilst improving Iceland’s standing in the international community.

To transform their vision into law, IMMI recognizes that bundling laws from other countries requires evaluation and study. Their proposal is a resolution to begin the process of finding the right mixture of legislation. The details of the vision are now public and articulate the various aspects of freedom of expression and information.

In journalism it is crucial to be able to protect sources of information, without fear that a court order could compromise the relationship, or the saftey of the source. While the most influential sources are Whistleblowers who need more legal protection from the government or corporate contracts which legally prevent them from speaking up. The rights of confidentiality and privacy in communcations are to be strengthened, while methods for guaranteeing “that existing laws not be abused” with any legal mechanism which could prevent publication, known as Prior Restrain, or that publications are not financially run into the ground in legal battles, and that international firms do not practice “Libel tourism” which is the practice of suing a publisher from where best suits the plaintiff. The proposal also seeks to protect historical archives from being censored by contending with the idea that an online article is “published every time it is viewed.”

Short list of the proposal

Source Protection
Whistleblower Protection
Communications Protection
Limiting prior restraint
Process protection
History protection
Libel tourism protection

This proposal will be filed and the Icelandic parliament tomorrow. Read the full proposal here.

Here’s a great overview of the WikiLeak and the importance of source protection to the free press

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