WikiLeaks' Julian Assange and his flight from the authorities pertaining to his whistleblowing expose on the US military's classified documents gives one pause for concern about the safety of journalists and whistleblowers globally. Iceland is one of the first countries to propose international law to provide journalists with a safe haven.
The spark that initiated cooperation with WikiLeaks was Iceland's banking crisis and economic collapse. Back in 2009, WikiLeaks presented a document that listed shareholders with insider knowledge who allegedly profited personally from dealings with Iceland's Kaupthing bank.
Many of the Icelandic people, media and legal authorities were outraged by the actions of the corrupt financial institutions. Iceland's parliament subsequently initiated a proposal, entitled the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative that would "task the government with finding ways to strengthen freedom of expression in Iceland, as well as providing vigilant protection for sources and whistleblowers."
Six months in the working, parliamentarians, lawyers, journalists, bloggers and activists groups scoured all of the existing international law in Belgium, France and the US that fostered quality journalism and provided for freedom of the press without fear of reprisal, prosecution or censorship.
The goals of the proposal is to initiate the foundation for one holistic law that will not only provide protection to publish and disseminate news freely but also shield all parties from unfair libel charges and seizure of ISPs.
The initial plan is to headquarter sizeable servers that could become the holding platform for sensitive content, beyond the reach of oppressive governments and judicial courts. As reported in this video, this would particularly help the smaller news enterprises and investigative teams that lack legal departments, lawyers and other resources to protect their content.
Julian AssangeJulian Assange asserts that while the IMMI is definitely a "good bullet," it is not a "magic bullet." In his estimation, it's a valiant first step in warding off the brutal suppression of the press in regions such as Sri Lanka and Burma. Based on first-hand experience of being a whistleblower himself, he suggests the short-term options of either "flying under the radar" or "working out of Iceland."
Looking forward, Assange has higher ambitions for IMMI. He feels that if Iceland lays down a law of consequence, hopefully other countries will emulate its model, and a ripple effect will spread globally.
According to a ReadWriteWeb report, the effects of IMMI are yet unknown, as it is merely a proposal for laws that remain to be written and tested in international waters. There is also the question of whether or not Iceland has the bandwidth to support large enough media servers, although the IMMI clearly states that Iceland "has fast undersea cables to some of the world's largest consumers of information."
We will continue to follow the progress of this story as it continues to unfold over the course of the year.