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ABC on Iceland, WikiLeaks and the disappearance of Julian Assange

As some readers may recall, WikiLeaks recently released a video entitled Collateral Murder, showing US troops shooting at civilians in Iraq back in 2007. [We wrote about it here.] Predictably the video generated a bit of attention, and the US military has now detained a soldier named Bradley Manning, who it suspects of leaking the tape, in Kuwait.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has said that there is more where that came from and that he plans to leak further tapes, including one that he describes as a “massacre” in Afghanistan. He has subsequently gone underground since he suspects that the Pentagon wishes to “question” him about the footage.

A couple of days ago a producer with ABC News in the US got in touch with me wanting to use a video I posted on YouTube in a segment they were producing about WikiLeaks. That segment has now aired. In it, Birgitta Jónsdóttir, MP for The Movement, speaks openly about her involvement with WikiLeaks and the new Icelandic Modern Media Initiative — the law that was passed a few days ago, awarding sanctuary to whistleblowers, investigative journalists, journalists’ sources, and the like.

You can watch the segment here.

I must say I was slightly taken aback about the way they lumped together WikiLeaks, the IMMI legislation, and the Icelandic parliament. To me, it could easily be construed as though the Icelandic parliament is hiding Julian and plans to offer protection to anyone who leaks more stuff about the US army. Or what do you think? Listen to the number of times Birgitta says “we” — is it clear when she’s speaking about WikiLeaks, and when she’s speaking about the Icelandic parliament? Should we expect bomber planes [or helicopters, perhaps] circling overhead by next week? Will old Össur Skarphéðinsson have to grovel at the feet of the US Ambassador to correct the misunderstanding? Will old Hillary Clinton take back her Happy Birthday message? Stay tuned for another exciting episode of WHICH ENEMY WILL ICELAND MAKE NEXT!

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  • Bromley86 June 18, 2010, 11:41 pm

    Will old Össur Skarphéðinsson have to grovel at the feet of the US Ambassador to correct the misunderstanding?

    He’ll have a tough time finding an ambassador 🙂 . You’ll not get another one until you pony up that order of the phoenix (or whatever it was).

  • Michael Schulz June 19, 2010, 12:22 am

    The IMMI is a very positive development in not only rehabilitating the Icelandic media standing but serves the media beyond Iceland. The IMMI is not a good example of general public or even social communication. (Not least thats why I recently contacted Birgitta asking for to update.)
    Absolute confidentiality and the independence of media are issues at the core of any functioning statehood not undermining statehood. A confusion between secrecy or secretive behaviour and absolute confidentialityindependence requires explanation. WikiLeaks hasn’t been good at it in its recent communications. On top of it the Manning case or the story in The New Yorker (June ’10; “No Secrets” Julian Assange’s mission for total transparency. by Raffi Khatchadourian) haven’t helped either to promote transparency and understanding. It has to be clear that transparency is not about the who’s and sources but why confidentiality/independence and the issues. Otherwise ABC etal will get on the case.
    Cheers,
    Michael

    Read more: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2010/06/07/100607fa_fact_khatchadourian#ixzz0rFXWB6KE

  • Kris June 19, 2010, 12:37 am

    The guy doing the interview is probably CIA.
    No bombs, but not much love either. Supporting Wiki leaks and negotiating with the IMF, EU, etc, are not separate things. Don’t the Icelandic politicians get it? Powerful people are not going to like this and how are they going to put the squeeze on? Lot’s of options.

  • CK June 19, 2010, 3:34 am

    So what if Iceland makes an “enemy” of the US military – you can’t be that dependent on the States anyways. Someone needs to be strong and stand up for what’s right….

  • kevin oconnor,waterford ireland June 19, 2010, 11:44 am

    @Kris yes probably right but remember after years of massacres and agent orange,B52 saturation bombing etc the Yanks got kicked out of Vietnam by the North Vietnamese Armies, German officer Italy WWII ,when the English fired we ducked, We fired they ducked, The Americans fired everybody ducked ha ha.

  • Jessie June 19, 2010, 1:38 pm

    I don’t think it’s clear where the line is between Wikileaks and Iceland’s Parliament to an outsider. The recent New Yorker article helps some, but also makes clear that there are many Icelanders who are willing to help Wikileaks/Assange — not that that is a bad thing, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there were some ramifications from the US (not planes with bombs in them, but perhaps on a diplomatic level somehow).

    I think it’s confusing to conflate transparency with what is clearly a political agenda on Assange’s part, but hey, I’m an American, so I must be blind.

  • Kris June 19, 2010, 4:08 pm

    Wikileaks should look for another patron. This is a win/lose deal. Assange wins and Iceland loses. Journalists and people need to fight for their own FOI laws and whistle-blower protections. Right now Iceland may have to protect Assange from the Pentagon. What next, the Russians, Chinese, etc? They all have secrets and some are more dangerous than others.
    Icelandic politicians have delusions of grandeur. How about some sensible FOI laws that are local and eliminate back-door deals like the Reykjanes geothermal deal? I’d sign on for that.

  • Birgitta Jónsdóttir June 20, 2010, 5:29 pm

    On June 16th the Icelandic Parliament unanimously passed a proposal tasking the government to intoduce a new legislative regime to protect and strengthen modern freedom of expression, and the free flow of information in Iceland and around the world. The unanimous vote included all government members.

    Birgitta Jonsdottir, the chief sponsor in parliament of the IMMI proposal said: “Iceland will become the inverse of a tax haven; by offering journalists and
    publishers some of the most powerful protections for free speech and investigative journalism in the world. Tax havens aim is to make everything opaque. Our
    aim it to make everything transparent.” she said.

    Highlights from the proposal:
    * the Icelandic Prize for Freedom of Expression
    * Protection from “libel tourism” and other extrajudicial abuses
    * Protection of intermediaries (internet service providers)
    * Statute of limitations on publishing liabilities
    * Virtual limited liability companies
    * Whistle-blower protections
    * Source protection
    * Source-journalist communications protection
    * Limiting prior restraint
    * Process protections
    * Ultra-modern Freedom of Information Act

    Because of the complexity of the legislative changes required, the final legislation will not pass through Parliament at the same date, at least 13 laws need to b e changed and improved in 4 ministries. The Ministry of Education, Science and Culture that will have an over all responsibility of implementing the laws.

    Estimated time for the entire IMMI package to be completed is about a year. The creators of the IMMI hope by Iceland’s bold steps in the direction of creating a haven for freedom of information, speech and expression, that it will inspire other nations to follow suit by strengthening their own laws in favor of the fundamental cornerstones that are the base of democracies and thwart the trending of gagging, legal harassment and destruction of historical records.

    This proposal was created by international collaboration of lawyers and organizations such as Wikileaks, who have a comprehensive understanding about how the current status of affairs are in our world in regard of serious attacks on freedom of information and expression.

    The Icelandic Modern Media Initiative is based on turning the tax-haven concept on its head. Instead of pulling together asset hiding and secrecy laws from around the world in order to shelter corruption and financial crime, the IMMI pulls together the best transparency enabling legislation, to create a stronghold for investigative journalists, internet publishers, transparency watchdogs and the public.

    The global support for the IMMI underlines the need for a robust environment that supports the world’s best journalism and the activities of transparency groups. The flow of information has no borders and most of the media is moving to the internet. That is why the time has come for a modern legislative regime that can promote and defend global freedom of expression, in principle and in practice.

    For details of the proposal and press contacts, please see

    http://www.immi.is/
    http://immi.is/?l=en&p=contact