Jon Henley, a journalist at the Guardian, has written to MBL in order to answer Icelandic Prime Minister Bjarni Benediktsson‘s claim against Henley‘s, Stundin‘s and Reykjavík Media‘s coverage on Benediktsson last week.
The coverage detailed newly leaked documents suggesting that Benediktsson had insider information on Glitnir Bank‘s worsening financial situation. The documents showed that he had a close relationship with executives at Glitnir, pointing to a conflict of interest between his role as an MP and a client of the bank. He reportedly sold approximately fifty million ISK in assets at Glitnir moments before the bank‘s collapse.
Benediktsson later told MBL that Henley, on behalf of The Guardian, had access to this information for some time and had been waiting for the right moment to damage Benediktsson‘s and The Independence Party‘s reputation as much as possible, right before the upcoming elections.
According to Henley, the information had reached The Guardian early in September in large amounts of data from banking files and e-mails. Henley immediately contacted his Icelandic colleagues at Stundin and Reykjavík Media on September 5th, who all began analysing the data. They decided to publish their findings as soon as possible, in order to have minimal impact on the elections. This was done at the request of his Icelandic counterparts.
„First of all, it is obviously ludicrous to imply that The Guardian would have any political interests in Iceland or would in any way wish to impact Icelandic politics. The Prime Minister probably doesn‘t realise just how time-consuming it is to analyse thousands of documents.“
Henley believed that a normal working pace would have meant publishing their findings during the week beginning at October 16th or even a week later. „So instead of delaying the publishing of our findings until right before the elections, we decided to accelerate the publishing for a few weeks in order to reduce the damage.“