Icelandic journalists’ union stands up for charged colleague

The chairman of Iceland’s journalists’ union has criticised a Reykjavik District Court ruling against a DV journalist.

The District Court last Friday ordered Jon Bjarki Magnusson to pay Kim Gram Laursen, from Denmark, ISK 500,000 (EUR 3,010) in compensation over quotes he published from Laursen’s former partner and mother of his children in an article about their custody battle. He also has to pay ISK 750,000 in legal costs, RUV reports.

The court ruling says that DV’s coverage of the case had not been balanced. The coverage in question stated that Laursen was a bully who had subjected his children to physical and psychological abuse.

Hjalmar Jonsson, chair of the journalists’ union, says it is ridiculous that people can be prosecuted for directly quoting their sources.

“It is incredible how people think journalists will be able to perform their role if they cannot directly quote from their sources. It is part of freedom of speech to be able to express oneself,” Jonsson says.

The case was tried under Iceland’s old media laws; although the new media law came into force on 1st July. Had the exact same coverage been made online or on the broadcast media, the journalist would probably not have been taken to court. The new laws include print media equals to other media.

“There they have passed judgement using the old faulty laws. This is of course completely ridiculous. We have a similar case, where an interviewee was directly quoted, the so-called ‘vikumal case’, in front of the court of human rights, and we believe nothing other than that we will win that case.”

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