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Former PM Paid Men to Gather Info on Journalists

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Former PM Paid Men to Gather Info on Journalists

Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson

Photo: Geir Ólafsson.

Former Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson paid one man over ISK 1 million (USD 10,000/EUR 8,000) to set up websites in support of him and gather information on journalists criticizing him, RÚV reports. He and other members of the Progressive Party hired Viðar Garðarsson, CEO of Forysta, for public relations work without the knowledge of party leaders, who later refused to pay the bill.

Viðar’s company Forysta lost their lawsuit against the Progressive Party yesterday, where they claimed the party owed them ISK 5.5 million (USD 55,000/EUR 45,000) for work leading up to last year’s election campaign. Sigmundur Davíð has paid Viðar ISK 1,090,000 out of his own pocket, according to a previous agreement between the two.

Viðar stated in court that he had hired Svanur Guðmundsson to identify which journalists were reporting on certain issues and “which had been the hardest on Sigmundur Davíð.”

Case files show Viðar set up the websites panamaskjolin.is and islandiallt.is for Sigmundur Davíð. He is also in charge of media website veggurinn.is. The website was set up shortly after the release of the Panama Papers, in which Sigmundur Davíð’s name appeared. The site has since published articles both in support of Sigmundur Davíð and criticizing his opponents.

When asked to comment on the case, Elfa Ýr Gylfadóttir, Director of the Icelandic Media Commission, told RÚV there were provisions on transparency in media ownership, but not in media funding. Thus nothing in media law explicitly prohibits the company’s work.

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