Iceland may become global haven for freedom of speech

Iceland intends to become a bastion for global press freedom under a package of laws proposed by opposition MPs to defend freedom of speech, and protect sources and fight libel tourism.

With the help of Wikileaks, the online whistleblowing site, the MPs have launched the Icelandic Modern Media Intiative, with the goal of turning the country into a global haven for investigative journalism.

The proposal, which has widespread backing among Iceland’s 51 MPs, is scheduled to come before the Althingi, Iceland’s parliament, next Tuesday, in the first step towards turning the idea into law.

“It is a good project for political change,” said Róbert Marshall, a member of the ruling Social Democratic Alliance party. “We have been through a difficult period and this is an initiative that can unite the whole political scene…”

The new legislation has won support from Julian Assange and Daniel Schmitt, the co-founders of the Wikileaks website…

Assange said that in his role as Wikileaks editor, he had been involved in fending off many legal attacks. “We’ve become good at it, and never lost a case, or a source, but we can’t expect everyone to go through the extraordinary efforts what we do. Large newspapers are routinely censored by legal costs. It is time this stopped. It is time a country said, enough is enough, justice must be seen, history must be preserved, and we will give shelter from the storm.”

Kind of warms the cockles of your heart to see a nation willing to commit its political will to freedom of speech – in practice – instead of settling for lip service from politicians, pundits and demagogues.

Having the longest-running democratic parliament in the western hemisphere certainly helps. Ain’t any filibusters in the Althing.

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