The goal of the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative in 2010 was for Iceland to take leadership in adopting the best possible laws, at any time, in order to be ahead of the digital tidal wave of disinformation eroding trust towards democratic institutions and traditional media. To be the first digital safe heaven for all the forbidden facts, to act as an inspiration for others to follow suit.
The demand for transparency and accountability was loud and clear in the aftermath of the financial crisis in 2008. These circumstances made it possible to find multi-partisan political will to adopt the parliamentary resolution that called for massive legislative changes in four ministries.
During the nine years since it’s passing, Iceland has undergone serious political crises with only one government being able to sit full term. Four governments and five Prime Ministers later, we finally have a deadline for IMMI to be fully ratified. In the first months after taking office as Prime Minister of Iceland, Katrin Jakobsdottir, announced she was committed to have all the laws finalized and put forward as governmental bills in Parliament before 2019 ends.
The International Modern Media Institute was established in 2011 in order to make sure that the laws based on the IMMI resolution would be finalized no matter what political parties would be in charge. Even if the laws are not all ratified, the IMMI’s unanimous adoption by Parliament put Iceland on the top of the list of Press Freedom by Reporters Without Borders in 2010. Iceland has been sliding down since, but we are hopeful that by greatly improving fundamental laws for press freedom we will move up again. Democracy rests on the foundations of freedom of speech, expression, information and strong independent media.
The new IMMI laws, scheduled in the Parliament this year by the government, are prepared by Professor Eirikur Jonsson, the chairman of a steering group, appointed by the Prime Minister’s office. Also appointed in the steering group are representatives from the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Culture & Science, the director of the Union of Icelandic Journalists, the Chairman of IMMI, the Director General at the Prime Minister’s office and prominent civic and human rights lawyers.
Among the remaining IMMI laws waiting for implementation to be on the agenda of the Government this year are:
- Passed in parliament June 2019: Significant improvement on current FOIA
- Whistleblower Act (public & private sector)
- Passed in parliament June 2019: Limiting liability of IP hosts
- Removal of Data retention
- Passed in parliament June 2019 : Significant improvement and clarification of the duty of public servants in regard to what and how information should be made available in the public domain
- Limiting prior restraint on news
- Significant improvement and modernization of libel laws, hate speech laws and blasphemy laws
When the remaining IMMI laws will be ratified, we hope to have in one place a new set of laws that can serve as a model on how to look at legal change in the digital era with focus on fundamental human rights and serve as a foundation for democratic development and reform. We built IMMI as a holistic set of legislative requirements where each law in itself is not remarkable, but when combined, will build a sturdy foundation for freedom of information, freedom of speech, privacy and freedom of information. In a world where disinformation, propaganda and click-bait are distorting the line between fact and fiction, it is important to have a safe haven for facts and the information that supports those facts.
On behalf of the IMMI team
with rebellious joy
Chairman of IMMI