David Dadge [Director, International Press Institute]: "The International Press Institute (IPI), as an organisation that has campaigned for almost 60 years for press freedom, wholeheartedly welcomes the proposals made in the Icelandic parliament. By selecting the best elements from existing laws overseas and combining them in these new proposals, Iceland hopes to become a shining beacon of press freedom in the world. The proposals to provide "an attractive package of free speech and openness laws, including source protection, internal media communications protection, protection from libel tourism, immunity for intermediaries such as ISPs, and a tight statute of limitations on litigation," as WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange said are exemplary and deserve great praise. Iceland already had an excellent global reputation for press freedom and these measures will help boost and re-establish it as a world leader in press freedom following the banking crisis of 2009.
However, it is important to remember that while global organisations such as WikiLeaks will be able to take advantage of the media laws in Iceland by relocating servers and workers to Iceland, and thus enabling them to continue their sterling work, this is not a feasible option for the average newspaper or blogger in a repressive state such as Iran, Cuba or Burma. Using an Icelandic-based ISP will not stop governments who regularly act extra-judicially to clamp down on Internet use. The blocking of social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook in Iran and Vietnam, not to mention the countless anti-government blogs such as Generación Y in Cuba, demonstrate the lengths repressive regimes will go to, to curtail freedom of speech online.
Moreover, violations of press freedom are often more subtle than the closing down of publishers, newspapers and websites. Cultures of self-censorship and general fear of kidnappings, attacks and killings will not drastically lessen thanks to Iceland's "haven."
As a result, it is vital that the Icelandic government and parliament speak out on the international stage and condemn countries that fail to uphold international principles of media freedom. By doing so, it will be seen to be holding repressive regimes abroad to account, as well as promoting press freedom at home.
We at IPI sincerely hope that the rest of the world, especially those who have already embraced the principles of press freedom, follow Iceland's example, and await the outcome in the Icelandic parliament with great interest."