July 16, 2015 | Posted in:blog, News

An article in the Icelandic penal code, limiting free speech, has been abolished after a bill introduced by the Pirate Party passed in Parliament in July.

The article (125) read thus:

“Anyone officially ridiculing or insulting the dogmas or worship of a lawfully existing religious community in this Country shall be subject to fines or [imprisonment for up to 3 months.] 1) Lawsuits shall not be brought except upon the instructions of the Public Prosecutor.”
Ms Dunja Mijatović, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, has already welcomed the decriminlization of blasphemy in Iceland, stating: “Blasphemy laws are incompatible with freedom of expression and freedom of religion (…) Democracy requires the possibility to openly discuss and challenge every single idea, dogma or belief even if this discussion may be felt as shocking, disturbing or offensive.”

 

Although the law has not been utilized in recent years it nonetheless posed a threat to freedom of speech and expression and as such, was in stark contrast to the IMMI vision of Iceland as a safe haven for freedom of expression and freedom of information.

 

Despite reservations and objections from various religious societies the move to decriminalize blasphemy enjoys broad support, inside and outside of Parliament, with the Bishop’s Office of Iceland’s State Church declaring: “[A]ny legislative power limiting freedom of expression (…) is at variance with modern-day attitudes towards human rights and the view that freedom of expression is one of the most important cornerstones of democracy and freedom” the Guardian reported.

 

Other laws requiring urgent attention to safeguard free expression are defamation laws, currently being worked on within the IMMI steering group under the leadership of the Ministry of Education and Culture, whistleblower protection laws, on which a bill was drafted and presented in Parliament, which then passed it on to a parliamentary committee, and intermediary protection laws, that are also being worked on within the IMMI steering group.