A new media control law has been accepted by the Icelandic parliament.
In the vote yesterday 30 MPs voted to support the bill, 14 against and 19 MPs did not vote. 13 of the votes against were from Independence Party members and the 14th was the Progressive Party’s Vigdis Hauksdottir.
The new law seeks to protect children from obscene content and to ensure freedom of speech. To uphold its goals a new media committee will be created to mediate between the media, the public and government.
The bill has honourable intentions, but it is still proving controversial — not least in the press. It is argued, among other things, that the Iceland is consistently ranked near the top in global press freedom rankings and that the creation of a government-controlled committee to protect and enforce press freedom is a contradiction in terms which will end up doing the exact opposite. The fact that the national broadcaster, RUV, is not controlled by the new law is also causing debate. This is the first media law in Iceland to cover the press and broadcast media together.
2,000 people have signed a petition urging the president to veto the law and thereby send it to a public referendum, DV reports. Unlike the last media bill, this proposed law does not regulate media ownership. The first time President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson used his power to call a referendum it was for the old Independence and Progressive Party government’s media bill which sought to restrict media ownership. The government withdrew the bill instead of allowing a pubic vote to go ahead.