Freedom of information

Journalism to migrate to Iceland?

Posted on February 16, 2010. Filed under: Freedom of information, Journalism, media |

Iceland’s move to create a haven for investigative journalism is welcome news, particularly as things seem to be moving in the reverse direction locally.

The Icelandic Modern Media Initiative was filed as a resolution at the Icelandic Parliament today, led by opposition MPs frustrated at the country’s recent economic crippling, and the distinct lack of public forewarning. The proposal is based on the idea that rigorous journalism would lead to greater accountability in the financial sector, and therefore a healthier, more robust democracy.

It is envisaged the scheme would encourage media organisations, data centres and human rights bodies to set up in Iceland, spurring a new type of economic growth and extensive employment opportunities. While improving the situation in Iceland, the proponents are also hoping it would encourage greater press freedom around the world.

Wikileaks editor Julian Assange has been a strong supporter of the proposal, which would provide source and legal protection to journalists. He has spent the past few weeks advising parliamentarians on how to best protect whistleblowers and support investigative journalism. Assange said Wikileaks works long and hard to protect sources and keep data safe, but few organisations have the time, or make the effort to go to the same lengths. He said the initiative is an exciting part of the country’s mini-revolution over the past year.

Meanwhile at home, journalists are finding themselves subject to a growing array of barriers to freeing information. The so-called super-injunction, which limits the publishing of the very existence of the injunction, and the matter it concerns, is being used more frequently; photographers, and even public snappers, are being stopped for photographing public buildings, (the European Court of Human Rights deemed this illegal last week, but the government is appealing), and ministers are seemingly finding it more difficult, time consuming and costly to attend to freedom of information requests.

Let’s hope this bold initiative encourages a review of freedom of information laws closer to home, lest we witness a mass exodus of talented and frustrated journalists.

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Google to leave China?

Posted on January 16, 2010. Filed under: Freedom of information, Google, media |

Google’s recent threat to withdraw from China over the alleged hacking of human rights activists’ emails raises many questions about the role of the search engine giant in the free flow of information.

The company was accused of abandoning it’s ethical ethos in 2006 when it agreed to operate a censored service in China. However it did state it would reassess its policy if it couldn’t meet its objectives  of broadening the freedom of information for Chinese citizens:

“We will carefully monitor conditions in China, including new laws and other restrictions on our services,” it said.

If we determine that we are unable to achieve the objectives outlined we will not hesitate to reconsider our approach to China.”

Google now states it will not continue to operate a censored service in China, and if it cannot operate an uncensored service, it will withdraw its business.

Is this proof of the company’s commitment to the freedom of speech or part of a wider business plan?

Where will Google’s withdrawal leave its Chinese users, and what will it mean for the future of information accessibility in China?

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