The International Press Institute (IPI) released a statement yesterday condemning the libel case of Þórey Vilhjálmsdóttir, assistant to Minister of the Interior Hanna Birna Kristjánsdóttir, against DV journalists Jón Bjarki Magnússon and Jóhann Páll Jóhannsson in the ‘leak affair.’
In an article in June, Jón and Jóhann incorrectly identified Þórey as ‘employee B,’ a person who appeared to have been responsible for leaking confidential information about an asylum seeker shortly before his deportation. The leaked documents were later found to have been partially doctored, IPI recites on freemedia.at.
DV issued a correction and apology on the same day the article was published. The police had, in fact, identified a different employee at the Interior Ministry as ‘employee B.’
Despite the apology, Þórey decided to press charges under Articles 234 (insult) and 235 (defamation) of the Icelandic Penal Code. Her lawyers have announced they will seek the “maximum punishment,” which is one year in prison for each offense.
“We are, quite frankly, taken aback by the disproportionate measures being sought in this case,” IPI Press Freedom Adviser Scott Griffen said.
“The idea that a public official may seek imprisonment—or, indeed, any punitive remedy—for what appears to have been an honest mistake made as part of a serious investigation does not indicate respect for the media’s critical watchdog role,” he added.
Read IPI’s full statement here.