Journalists in Iceland are outraged after the District Commissioner of Reykjavik imposed an injunction on news coverage of the financial dealings of Prime Minister Bjarni Benediktsson with the Glitnir bank.
The injunction, introduced following a demand made by the bankruptcy estate of Glitnir, prevents any future coverage of the private dealings of any ex-clients of Glitnir, including the Prime Minister, by two news outlets – Stundin and Reykjavik Media.
The original request by Glitnir HoldCo had also demanded that the two news outlets relinquish all leaked documents in their possession and remove all articles related to the matter from their website – although this final point was removed before the injunction was filed. The holding company claims that the reports by Stundin and Reykjavik Media, based on leaked documents from the bank, violate confidentiality agreements and its customers’ privacy.
The decision has received condemnation from journalists in the country, with the Icelandic Press Union describing the injunction as “an attack on the freedom of expression and the right held by journalists to obtain documents and create news coverage from them.”
At the time of publication, no action has been taken against The Guardian, who also reported on the story. However, the company has hired lawyers in Britain and are currently looking into their rights under British law.
Prime Minister Benediktsson has denied any involvement with the injunction, telling Visir: “I want people to understand that I did not request this injunction. It makes me look bad, that an injunction has been placed on reporting about me.”
Stundin and Reykjavik Media intend to appeal against the decision, but fear that the case to overturn the injunction may not be heard before elections take place on October 28th.
The Pirate Party, advocates of transparency and freedom of expression, have also blasted the decision. In a statement, they said: “The media serves a vital function in guaranteeing that the public has the best possible information at each time. When state power is wielded to prevent the legitimate operations of media, the darkest side of our society is being nurtured with more silence. This is unacceptable… and must stop now.”