Internet Freedom: Interview with Birgitta Jónsdóttir

In this interview, Icelandic parliamentarian Birgitta Jónsdóttir tells the Council of Europe about the background of the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative (IMMI), and the importance of freedom of information. 


  • Date of recording: Wed, 2011-06-08
  • Language(s) spoken:

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0:31  Objectives of the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative

Interviewer: Birgitta Jónsdóttir, you are one of the founders of the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative. Can you tell us about its objectives?

Birgitta Jónsdóttir: Well, literally when we started to put it together, we looked at what tax havens do it. If I want to start a tax haven tomorrow, I would look at all the best laws from around the world in order to create secrecy. So what we did is we looked at all the best laws from around the world in order to ensure freedom of information, expression and speech. And the reason why we did it was that most countries don’t have all the best laws put together. They only have one strong law, so many become information refugees. And we just wanted to make a safe haven for the information refugees and those are usually journalists, in particular journalists that are of the investigative kind. But we also wanted to raise the standards and bring awareness about the issue that we have to upgrade our laws when it comes to freedom of information in the Internet environment.

Interviewer: What kind of reactions have you gotten from other states and nations to this initiative?

Birgitta Jónsdóttir: Really good one. I’ve been surprised and I’m actually a bit worried that I’m not getting a negative reaction. But it’s got a lot of positive feedback even from the EU parliament in the process of the Icelandic application to the EU. Of course you have skeptics. But when we explain to them that we are not suggesting that there would be free flow of, for example, hate speech or child pornography - because we already have laws in place that forbid that - I think people are sort of recognizing the fact that, if we don’t put the laws in place, we will have many, many more WikiLeaks.

And the reason why we need many, many more WikiLeaks is that we don’t have transparency about for example, the issues that need to be secret. So everything is a secret by default in many countries, including my own. A lot of issues are secret by default. Maybe we just need to have a debate and I’m hoping that the Icelandic Modern Media initiative has done that, and actually it has. So I’m quite happy with where it’s at.


2:56 The Future of the IMMI

Interviewer: How do you think the initiative can be sustained globally?

Birgitta Jónsdóttir: Well, I think, of course all countries have different cultures. But we have all signed global treaties when it comes to basic human rights and we can’t go and sort of short-circuit what it means; it means the same everywhere. So, I think what needs to be done in the global environment is that we need to include the internet in the human rights charters, which has not happened yet. So this is an attempt to put this up onto the agenda. And I don’t have a solution on how it’s going to be solved in the global environment, but at least we’re doing an experiment and we’ll see how it goes. 

Interviewer: Which are the most important obstacles you are facing?

Birgitta Jónsdóttir: The most important obstacles we are facing is to try to fit the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative into the global legislations that we are part of. And that is a difficult task that the people and minister of Culture are dealing with now. But they have been offered support because there is so many enthusiasm about this. All over the world, legal experts have offered to give their input pro bono if the ministry wants to.



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