Pioneers of Transparency


Let me give you a brief account of recent events involving WikiLeaks and Iceland:

I have to admit that I didn't have the faintest idea that the Icelandic media had a liaison with the controversial WikiLeaks until I saw a video clip of Liz Cheney, a member of the US American Republican Party. On the so-called news channel Fox News Miss Cheney demanded that Iceland shut down the servers of WikiLeaks.

I started reading up the topic and came across an interesting development.

In the past few years, the internet platform WikiLeaks has caused worldwide sensation by publishing confidential information and well-kept secrets of governments, regimes, politicians, banks, companies and so on.

By the way, the reason for Miss Cheney's anger with Iceland was a sensational video published by the infamous internet project earlier this year. It showed an US Apache helicopter strike in Baghdad killing civilians.

But what does Baghdad have to do with our peaceful, little island?

In fact, the video was edited and prepared for release in Iceland with the help of local film makers and journalists.

According to Australian journalist Julian Assange, the spokesman and chief-editor of WikiLeaks who was in Iceland when the video leaked, he and his Icelandic colleagues were harassed by the Icelandic police and followed and spied on by agents of the US Secret Service.

Secret agents playing James Bond in Iceland? What an absurd idea.

Then classified information about the Icelandic bank Kaupthing was posted on the WikiLeaks website, including names of employees who had received unusually high credits and transferred their billions of krónur abroad just before the crisis struck, allegedly thanks to insider information.

When national broadcaster RÚV was about to air the story, Kaupthing tried to issue a gag order on the TV station by obtaining a last minute injunction.

In a stroke of genius the people at RÚV managed to outsmart Kaupthing by presenting a computer screen showing the respective WikiLeaks page. Impressive.

In a recent interview with Assange, he stated that a group of people—members of WikiLeaks, himself included, Icelandic politicians and foreign legal experts—had worked out a legislation package for Iceland.

The aim is to make Iceland an unprecedented offshore sanctuary for the free press providing the strongest protection for journalists and their sources in the world.

This was the birth of the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative, or IMMI.

The catalogue of legislation drafted by the IMMI was submitted at Althingi, the Icelandic parliament, earlier this year and voted in favor of in July.

I was pleasantly surprised learning about this since I hadn't read anything about it in the press. The idea that Iceland is to become a safe haven for investigative journalists and whistleblowers and help fight corruption and injustice does sound very appealing.

Iceland as the protector of the truth—what a great image. Making a strong statement in favor of freedom of the press is surely helpful in repairing Iceland’s damaged image.

More importantly, the new legislation could provide a fresh start for Iceland; during and after the financial collapse people have been lied to and kept in the dark about the circumstances of the meltdown. It's time for transparency and hard facts.

Detailed information about the IMMI can be found on the initiative’s website.

Finally, the words of Eva Joly, member of the EU parliament and anti-corruption activist:

“I am proud to advise the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative's proposal to create a global safe haven for investigative journalism. I believe this proposal is a strong way of encouraging integrity and responsive government around the world, including in Iceland. In my work investigating corruption I have seen how important it is to have robust mechanisms to get information out to the public. Iceland, with its fresh perspectives and courageous, independent people seems to be the perfect place to initiate such an effort towards global transparency and justice.”

Call me naïve, but I want to believe in this initiative and Eva Joly has infected me.

Bravo Iceland.

Katharina Hauptmann – [email protected]

Views expressed here are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Iceland Review.