Icelandic Modern Media Initiative - "Publishing Haven" laws in Iceland ?

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Just what sort of media, whistleblower source protection, anti-libel tourism etc. legislation , are Julian Assange , Daniel Schmitt and the other WikiLeakS,org activists actually helping to draft in Iceland ?

Chris Vallance from the BBC has an article and video interview with some of those involved: Wikileaks and Iceland MPs propose 'journalism haven'

Coupled with Iceland's attractions for companies looking for cheap, non-carbon cycle electricity and cooling for their internet server farms, such legal protection could be very attractive to "cloud computing" and publishing services.

Will get some server space and bandwidth in Iceland ?

Perhaps they should firstly pay US$ 250 for the Icelandic domain name registration (limited to Icelandic citizens) ?

Will the Icelanders manage to shame the increasingly repressive and hypocritical European and North American Governments into sorting out their own equivalent laws, which also badly need reform in the internet age ?

Here are some more details of what is being proposed:, but not an actual detailed legal Bill:

Icelandic Modern Media Initiative - Proposal

This text is a draft document and may change slightly until Tuesday 16 Feb 2010. At that point the canonical proposal comes out of embargo and is filed in the Icelandic parliament. In the case of discrepancy between the English and Icelandic versions, the Icelandic version is authoritative.

Proposal for a parliamentary resolution

for Iceland to strongly position itself legally with regard to the protection of freedoms of expression and information.

Parliament resolves to task the government with finding ways to strengthen freedoms of expression and information freedom in Iceland, as well as providing strong protections for sources and whistleblowers.

In this work, the international team of experts that assisted in the creation of this proposal should be utilized.

To this end,

  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.

This parliamentary resolution proposal is written with the support of parliamentarians from all parties. Numerous respected specialists, both foreign and local, have consulted on the work and have promised continued support for the Icelandic government if this proposal is accepted.

A vision for Iceland

Freedom of expression, in particular, freedom of the press, guarantees popular participation in the decisions and actions of government, and popular participation is the essence of our democracy.

- Corazón Aquino
democratic President of the Philippines (1986-1992)

The nation is at a crossroad that call for legislative change. At such times we should not only address our past, but also adopt positive plans for our future.

The legislative initiative outlined here is intended to make Iceland an attractive environment for the registration and operation of international press organizations, new media start-ups, human rights groups and internet data centers. It promises to strengthen our democracy through the power of transparency and to promote the nation's international standing and economy. It also proposes to draw attention to these changes through the creation of Iceland's first internationally visible prize: the Icelandic Prize for Freedom of Expression.

The world's media is moving to the Internet, allowing publishing from any location. Whether a newspaper like The Guardian is published online out of Reykjavik or New York is indistinguisable to its readers. At the same time, there is a recognized crisis in quality journalism.

Where to publish is now decided by factors such as distance and communications capacity, server costs and legal environment. Iceland has the first two covered: it has fast undersea cables to some of the world's largest consumers of information, and its clean green power and cool temperatures are attractive to those running internet services.

We can create a comprehensive policy and legal framework to protect the free expression needed for investigative journalism and other politically important publishing. While some countries provide basic measures, Iceland now has an oportunity to build an internationally attractive legislative package built from the best laws of other nations.

Examples of successful laws include the following: recent legislation from the state of New York to block the enforcement of U.K. judgments constricting freedom of the press, a 2005 Belgian law to provide strong protection for the communications of journalists with their sources; and the Swedish constitution's Press Freedom Act.

A legislative package based on these and other protections would attract a wide range of media and human rights organizations that routinely face unjust sanction. For example, British press agencies are currently forced to redact an increasing amount of information from the historical record in a futile attempt to ward off secret gag orders and other abusive legal actions taken by litigious billionaires and corporations trying to conceal corrupt behavior. Similarly Transparency International and other human rights groups are routinely sued for exposing corruption on their web-sites.

These influential groups would be inclined to promote and protect the proposed legislation, and through it, the long term strength of our own democracy. It is not only other countries that need access to such supportive laws--let us not forget that RUV nightly news was gagged by the Kaupthing bank on Aug 2, 2009.

The potential is already clear. Many important newswires and human rights organizations have moved to Stockholm on the strength of the existing Swedish Press Freedom Act. Similarly, Malaysia Today relocated to the United States after having been persecuted in its own country. As legal costs for participants in the information economy have begun to spiral out of control, the world is looking for an internally consistent set of rules that place clear limits on the risks faced by publishers.

Not all the benefits of this proposal can be counted in kronas: like the Reagan-Gorbachev summit, the indirect effects of weaving together the interests of the Icelandic people with the interests of the world media should not be underestimated. The proposal that has been described above would make Iceland unique in the global discussion and would engender the goodwill and respect of other nations.

It is hard to imagine a better resurrection for a country that has been devastated by financial corruption than to turn facilitating transparency and justice into a business model.

Transforming vision into law

Below we trace some outlines of the laws that would have to be carefully evaluated and adapted for this protective legal framework to emerge. In some cases the need for legislative change is clear, in other cases more study is needed and we merely point to potential problems and offer possible solutions for consideration. Given the number of different laws affected and the required consistency between the various measures, we call for further study to be initiated as soon as possible.

Source Protection

Current protection of a journalist's sources is defined in the law on the treatment of criminal cases no. 88/2008 and the law on the treatment of private cases no. 91/1991. The current media bill contains articles protecting a journalist's sources. It however states that journalists have a right to refuse to expose their sources except when a court ruling states otherwise, as per art. 119 of the law on the treatment of criminal cases no. 88/2008. This seems an overly broad exception to such an important principle and it may contradict principle 3 of Council of Europe recommendation R (2000)7, upon which the media bill's source protection statutes are based. Given the consensus nature of CoE recommendations, we should strengthen source protection to far exceed this recommendation.

Whistleblower Protection

Where statistics have been collected, internal whistleblowers account for most revelations of corporate and government corruption. The rights of the people to benefit from these disclosures should not be abridged and just like in many other countries, specific mechanisms to encourage the reporting of unethical practices should be considered. One could envision, for example, an absolute right to communicate information to a member of the Icelandic Parliament.

The USA Federal False Claims Act (31 U.S.C. §§3729-3733) provides model protections and incentives for those who report frauds made against the government. According to the Government Accounting Office (2006), $9.6 billion was recovered for the government under this act, which protects and encourages the reporting of frauds against the government in a number ways. For instance, by providing employment guarantees that preserve seniority status and salary, as well as providing 15 to 30% of the monies recovered as a compensation and reporting incentive.

The proposers suggest that changes be made to laws regarding the rights and duties of official employees (no. 70/1996) such that official employees be allowed to break their duty of silence in the case of extreme circumstances of public interest. Similar changes could be made to municipal governance law (no. 45/1996) regarding employees of municipal governments. Suggestions for such changes have been made in three proposed bills, parliamentary documents 41 from the 130th legislative assembly, 994 from the 132nd legislative assembly and 330 from the 133rd legislative assembly. It may also be appropriate to make changes to article 136 of the general criminal code (no. 19/1940), such that the interest of the public must always be weighed in procedures against public servants who have disclosed classified information.

Communications Protection

Belgian law since 2005 was designed to explicitly protect all communication between sources and journalists, with both groups defined broadly. But such protections may have limited effect if protected communication records between journalists and sources are automatically stored by third parties.

Currently Icelandic telecommunications law no. 81/2003 implements EEA mandated data retention. It applies to telecommunication providers and its current implementation mandates the retention of records of all connection data for 6 months. It states that communications companies may only deliver information on telecommunications in criminal cases or on matters of public safety. It also states that such information may not be given to others than police and public prosecution.

The European directive that caused this law to come into effect, 2002/58/EB from 12. july 2002 regarding privacy and electronic communication, is up for review in the autumn of 2010 and the German constitutional court is expected to rule whether or not data retention is at odds with the European Human Rights Treaty. Given these developments and a general trend towards more privacy awareness, the Icelandic data retention laws may need updating to address these concerns.

Another aspect of communications protection comes from chapter V of the currently implemented law 30/2002 on e-commerce and electronic services, which provides indemnity for "mere conduits", such as telecommunications networks and Internet hosting providers. There are few and mostly well defined exceptions to this indemnity, but the exception for general court orders without further definition is worrying. This should probably be improved by clarifying which exact circumstances can trigger such exceptions.

Limiting prior restraint

Prior restraint is any legal mechanism that can be used to forcibly prevent publication. Such restaints have a significant negative impact on freedom of expression. Most democracies place strong and in some cases absolute limitations on prior restraint. Methods for guaranteeing that existing laws not be abused in the attempt to limit the freedom of expression should be explored.

Process protection

Equal access to justice is an important part of democracy. Even in countries with strong constitutional protections for the press, such as the United States, there is weak process protection, and as a result it may be financially infeasible for publications to participate in legal battles. Even in the cases where the publications have the capacity to defend themselves, it may be against their economic interests. An example of this is the case where Time Magazine was litigated in the United States for running a cover story on financial corruption in the Scientology cult. Although Time magazine eventually won the case, it had to spend $7 million in legal fees taking the matter all the way to the Supreme Court--effectively a multi-million dollar "fine" against Time magazine for engaging in quality, research based journalism. It would have been impossible for a smaller publication to mount such a defence, and it would be impossible for Time Magazine to take on many such battles, creating a "chilling effect" on quality journalism and interferring with the democratic process.

It should always be cost effective for a small publisher to stand up against a well financed litigant whose goal is to cover up the truth, and, in general, it should be possible for small entities to defend against large entities. One way to accomplish this is through a measure similar to California's anti-SLAPP (Strategic Litigation against Public Participation) statutes. Under such a system, a defendant may request the presiding judge to view the case as a freedom of speech issue. If the move is granted, a number of protections are activated during the case itself, and should the case be successfully defended, the plaintiff must pay all legal costs associated with it.

History protection

On the 9th of March, 2009, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg issued a ruling against the Times of London which has generated great uncertainty for European publishers. The Court confirmed that, for the purposes of the law of libel, an Internet publication should be considered to be 'published' afresh every time a reader views it. The ruling also found that libel proceedings brought against a publisher after a significant lapse of time may well, in the absence of exceptional circumstances, give rise to a disproportionate interference with press freedom...'. The court left open to member states what, if any, limiting period may be applied to archives.

The view that an electronic archive is 'published' every time it is viewed has been extensively abused to remove important articles on corruption from online newspaper archives long after they were published. For example, The Guardian, inorder to avoid unending legal costs, removed several such articles in 2008, originally published in 2003, which reported, the conviction for corruption of a billionaire involved in the Elf-Acquitaine scandal.

To protect the historical archive and give certainty to publishers, we propose that, following the model used in France, that lawsuits related to publishing must be filed within two months of publication and that a ceiling for damages be set to 10,000 Euro (France: three months, 15,000).

Libel tourism protection

The abuse of British libel law has been much discussed in recent years and has recently been counteracted in New York with the New York Libel Terrorism Protection Act. A law with the same intent took force in the state of Florida on the first of July 2009 (Act relating to grounds for nonrecognition of foreign defamation judgments). A similar proposal has been made on a federal level, but has not passed into law yet. The method used in the United States is, on the one hand, to refuse to honour any court verdict that contradicts the first amendment of the US constitution, and on the other hand provides a framework for retaliatory cases against such lawsuits.

Chapter XXV of the Icelandic general criminal code, law 19/1940 ("Almenn hegningarlög") contains the implementation of libel law. Problems have arisen when courts in other countries have claimed jurisdiction over publications or remarks that have been published or made in Iceland. A libel suit against Hannes Hólmsteinn Gissurarson in the United Kingdom received considerable attention, partly because of the jurisdiction claims and the strict libel law in the United Kingdom.

The supporters of this proposal wish to implement a law similar to those in place in New York and Florida. The rules of the Lugano Treaty on jurisdiction and enforcements of judgment must be carefully considered in this relation. They also believe that Icelandic defendents should be enabled to sue the original plaintiff for reparations in cases where the judgment is considered to be in breach of the general rule of law.

Freedom of Information Act

The Icelandic Freedom of Information law (Upplýsingalög, 50/1996) was enacted in 1996 and has since been amended six times to various degrees. It is mostly modeled after the Danish and Norwegian laws from 1970. The current Icelandic FOI law does not conform to CoE convention, and it does not match the standards set in the Aarhus treaty for environmental information. This presents the opportunity to create maximum transparency by means of of a newer, better and more internationally compliant Icelandic FOI law.

Any new framing of Icelandic FOI law should only be done after taking a close look at the 2009 CoE and OAS recommendations as well as particularly good and modern elements in the FOI laws of Estonia, Scotland, the UK and Norway. The standards with regard to speedy response, a limited number of exemption and rapid access to administrative complaint procedures from the environmental Aarhus treaty ought to be the standard for all information.

It may make sense to make sure this law applies to all government bodies and all non government entities operating on behalf of the government, as well as entities that fulfill a public concession/task paid from public funds. The extent to which businesses can prevent the release of documents that concern them should be strictly limited. The current act does not apply to anything covered by the public administration law, international agreements, etc. The limitation regarding public administration law is by far the most far-reaching of the current limitations, and would likely need to be reconsidered.

There currently exists no central registry of documents held by government bodies, and there is no standardized FOI document request form. One feature that may add greater transparency is an actively internet-published central register of all documents held (as opposed to merely produced) by an institution. At the same time document access should be possible by subject, requesters should not need to know of the existence of a document.

Framers of a new Icelandic FOI law should consider making sure the law applies to classic [paper] and modern [digital] documents in the same way. One might also want to consider raising the level of the administrative complaint to the more internationally compliant form of an information commissioner with binding execution and sanction power. Having such a serious complaint procedure will reduce the workload of the court because it is expected that fewer requesters will go to court after the complaint at the information commissioner.

It would be best if limitations on the release of documents were never absolute and the public interest should always be weighed as well. Privacy-related limitations should not be applicable to any work-related information. Exemptions should expire in as brief a time as is reasonable. One could consider a regime under which the fact that any exemptions were used to successfully prevent release of a document would be published on the internet immediately and where all such exempted documents would automatically published after the expiry of the exemption.

As a general rule documents released should be made available online for all citizens to access. This will increase transparency, prevent requests from being filed more than once and will invite government bodies to disclose documents pro-actively. The law should be based on the notion that government documents are in principle public unless an exceptional reason prevents publication.

The Icelandic Prize for Freedom of Expression

Unlike other Nordic countries, Iceland currently hosts no internationally acclaimed prize. Iceland should create a yearly prize that promotes Iceland and the values represented in this proposal, by giving recognition to those who, through their actions in the past 12 months have most advanced humanity through courageous acts of free expression. It is envisaged that the prize would primarily be awarded to journalists, whistleblowers, human rights activists and publishers.

Creative Commons license

Contacts for journalists:

Press Contacts

Spokespeople for the Workgroup

Birgitta Jónsdóttir
Member of the Icelandic Parliament, (the Movement, Party group chair)
Tel: +354 692 8884
e-mail: birgittaj at

Smári McCarthy
Icelandic Digital Freedoms Society
Tel: +354 662 2701
e-mail: smari at

Follow us on Twitter: @icelandmedia

Members of Parliament who may be contacted by the press

Róbert Marshall
Member of the Icelandic Parliament (Social Democrats, Former head of Iceland journalist association)
Tel:+354 661 8899
e-mail: marshall at

Guðfríður Lilja Grétarsdóttir
Member of the Icelandic Parliament (Left Green Party, Party group chair)
Tel:+354 848 0100
e-mail: glg at

Lilja Mósesdóttir
Member of the Icelandic Parliament (Left Green Party)
Tel:+354 898 7160
e-mail: liljam at

Þór Saari
Member of the Icelandic Parliament (the Movement)
Tel:+354 892 0294
e-mail: thorsaari at

Advisors who may be contacted by the press

Julian Assange
Editor for WikiLeaks
Tel: +354 659 5833
e-mail: julian at

Jón Þórisson
Assistant of Eva Joly in Iceland
Tel:+354 821 9954
e-mail: jonthorisson at

Ingólfur Bjarni Sigfússon
Journalist at RUV (National broadcaster)
Tel:+354 696 9643
e-mail: ingobjarni at

Guðmundur Ragnar Guðmundsson
Internet pioneer in Iceland
Tel:+354 843 9553
e-mail: gragnar at


Good good Iceland. Keep moving forward to total freedom and truth. NO MORE SECRECY! Valhalla!

Dear reder:

I was reading a BBC article about IMMI.

Its experience of different laws around the world meant that it was drafted to help Icelandic MPs draw up plans for its Icelandic Modern Media Initiative (IMMI).

There was an enbeded link that failed and I can't tell it if's really invalid or if it's being blocked?

Thanks for your great and bery important work!

Support the IMMI intiative!

Congratulation to the Gov of Iceland

hi my name is freeman John and when i first heard about I.M.M.I i knew that here was something i have being waiting for. I went to Iceland in april to meet the people of Iceland and Birgitta Jonsdottir to find out what was happening about I.M.M.I.I spoke to many people but did not meet Birgitta,i decided to send a e:mail of support and the promise to come back to main land Europe and spread the message and try to get support for I.M.M.I. I am still spreading the word and would to inform anybody who does not know that there is a; Save The People Of Iceland-Official Petition,we are asking for 10,000 signatures,and there is a blog on facebook about all this. So please check them out and show youe support for Iceland.Spread the word love and peace freeman John

This is controlled leak. When The Afghan War Diary is simultaneously given to reporters from The New York Times, The Guardian and Der Spiegel, and the US government only "strongly condemns" it means that they're willingly letting you read something that would never have gone public if it was important, secret or in the nature of harming the agenda of the US foreign policy

About this blog

This blog here at (no "S") discusses the ethical and technical issues raised by the project, which is trying to be a resource for whistleblower leaks, by providing "untraceable mass document leaking and analysis".

These are bold and controversial aims and claims, with both pros and cons, especially for something which crosses international boundaries and legal jurisdictions.

This blog is not part of the project, and there really are no copies of leaked documents or files being mirrored here.

Email Contact

Please feel free to email us your views about this website or news about the issues it tries to comment on:

email: blog@WikiLeak[dot]org

Before you send an email to this address, remember that this blog is independent of the project.

If you have confidential information that you want to share with us, please make use of our PGP public encryption key or an email account based overseas e.g. Hushmail

Now that the project is defunct, so far as new whistleblower are concerned, what are the alternatives ?

The wiki page lists links and anonymity analyses of some of the many post-wikileaks projects.

There are also links to better funded "official" whistlblowing crime or national security reporting tip off websites or mainstream media websites. These should, in theory, be even better at protecting the anonymity and security of their informants, than wikileaks, but that is not always so.

New whistleblower website operators or new potential whistleblowers should carefully evaluate the best techniques (or common mistakes) from around the world and make their personal risk assessments accordingly.

Hints and Tips for Whistleblowers and Political Dissidents

The Submissions web page provides some methods for sending them leaked documents, with varying degrees of anonymity and security. Anybody planning to do this for real, should also read some of the other guides and advice to political activists and dissidents:

Please take the appropriate precautions if you are planning to blow the whistle on shadowy and powerful people in Government or commerce, and their dubious policies. The mainstream media and bloggers also need to take simple precautions to help preserve the anonymity of their sources e.g. see Spy Blog's Hints and Tips for Whistleblowers - or use this easier to remember link:

BlogSafer - wiki with multilingual guides to anonymous blogging

Digital Security & Privacy for Human Rights Defenders manual, by Irish NGO Frontline Defenders.

Everyone’s Guide to By-Passing Internet Censorship for Citizens Worldwide (.pdf - 31 pages), by the Citizenlab at the University of Toronto.

Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber-Dissidents - March 2008 version - (2.2 Mb - 80 pages .pdf) by Reporters Without Borders

Reporters Guide to Covering the Beijing Olympics by Human Rights Watch.

A Practical Security Handbook for Activists and Campaigns (v 2.6) (.doc - 62 pages), by experienced UK direct action political activists

Anonymous Blogging with Wordpress & Tor - useful step by step guide with software configuration screenshots by Ethan Zuckerman at Global Voices Advocacy. (updated March 10th 2009 with the latest Tor / Vidalia bundle details)

WikiLeakS Links

The Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page.

WikiLeakS Twitter feeds

The website does not stay online all of the time, especially when there is a surge of traffic caused by mainstream media coverage of a particularly newsworthy leak.

Recently, they have been using their new Twitter feeds, to selectively publicise leaked documents to the media, and also to report on the status of routing or traffic congestion problems affecting the main website in Stockholm, Sweden.

N.B.the words "security" or "anonymity" and "Twitter" are mutually exclusive: Twitter feed via SSL encrypted session: unencrypted Twitter feed

Internet Censorship

OpenNet Initiative - researches and measures the extent of actual state level censorship of the internet. Features a blocked web URL checker and censorship map.

Temporary Autonomous Zone

Temporary Autonomous Zones (TAZ) by Hakim Bey (Peter Lambourn Wilson)

Cyberpunk author William Gibson

Campaign Button Links

Watching Them, Watching Us, UK Public CCTV Surveillance Regulation Campaign
UK Public CCTV Surveillance Regulation Campaign

NO2ID Campaign - cross party opposition to the NuLabour Compulsory Biometric ID Card
NO2ID Campaign - cross party opposition to the NuLabour Compulsory Biometric ID Card and National Identity Register centralised database.

Gary McKinnon is facing extradition to the USA under the controversial Extradition Act 2003, without any prima facie evidence or charges brought against him in a UK court. Try him here in the UK, under UK law.
Gary McKinnon is facing extradition to the USA under the controversial Extradition Act 2003, without any prima facie evidence or charges brought against him in a UK court. Try him here in the UK, under UK law.

FreeFarid_150.jpg - Kafkaesque extradition of Farid Hilali under the European Arrest Warrant to Spain

Peaceful resistance to the curtailment of our rights to Free Assembly and Free Speech in the SOCPA Designated Area around Parliament Square and beyond

Parliament Protest blog - resistance to the Designated Area restricting peaceful demonstrations or lobbying in the vicinity of Parliament.

Petition to the European Commission and European Parliament against their vague Data Retention plans
Data Retention is No Solution Petition to the European Commission and European Parliament against their vague Data Retention plans.

Save Parliament: Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill (and other issues)
Save Parliament - Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill (and other issues)

Open Rights Group

The Big Opt Out Campaign - opt out of having your NHS Care Record medical records and personal details stored insecurely on a massive national centralised database.

Tor - the onion routing network
Tor - the onion routing network - "Tor aims to defend against traffic analysis, a form of network surveillance that threatens personal anonymity and privacy, confidential business activities and relationships, and state security. Communications are bounced around a distributed network of servers called onion routers, protecting you from websites that build profiles of your interests, local eavesdroppers that read your data or learn what sites you visit, and even the onion routers themselves."

Tor - the onion routing network
Anonymous Blogging with Wordpress and Tor - useful Guide published by Global Voices Advocacy with step by step software configuration screenshots (updated March 10th 2009).

Amnesty International's campaign

BlogSafer - wiki with multilingual guides to anonymous blogging

NGO in a box - Security Edition privacy and security software tools

Home Office Watch blog, "a single repository of all the shambolic errors and mistakes made by the British Home Office compiled from Parliamentary Questions, news reports, and tip-offs by the Liberal Democrat Home Affairs team."

Reporters Without Borders - Reporters Sans Frontières - campaign for journalists 'and bloggers' freedom in repressive countries and war zones.

Committee to Protect Bloggers - "devoted to the protection of bloggers worldwide with a focus on highlighting the plight of bloggers threatened and imprisoned by their government."

wikileaks_logo_low.jpg - the controversial "uncensorable, anonymous whistleblowing" website based currently in Sweden.

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Recent Comments

  • jennifer: This is controlled leak. When The Afghan War Diary is read more
  • John Thomas Hall: hi my name is freeman John and when i first read more
  • Frey Albert: Congratulation to the Gov of Iceland read more
  • press4thepeople: Support the IMMI intiative! read more
  • Joe: Dear reder: I was reading a BBC article about IMMI. read more
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