The most exciting news of recent weeks (slightly underplayed by the Guardian which had the scoop) is the news that a group of freedom of information campaigners are planning to turn Iceland into a haven for free speech.
This is potentially an extraordinary idea. Iceland would attract media organisations and start-ups by protecting them from censorship and aggressive libel laws such as those we have in Britain. There is a great piece by Wikileaks editor Julian Assange on the Organgrinder blog in The Guardian.
The nub of the proposition is this:
"In my role as Wilkileaks editor, I’ve been involved in fighting off more than 100 legal attacks over the past three years. To do that, and keep our sources safe, we have had to spread assets, encrypt everything, and move telecommunications and people around the world to activate protective laws in different national jurisdictions. We’ve become good at it, and never lost a case, or a source, but we can’t expect everyone to make such extraordinary efforts. Large newspapers, including the Guardian, are forced to remove or water down investigative stories rather than risk legal costs. Even internet-only publishers writing about corruption find themselves disconnected by their ISPs after legal threats. Should these publications not relent, they are hounded, like the Turks & Caicos Islands Journal, from one jurisdiction to other. There’s a new type of refugee – "publishers" – and a new type of internet business developing, "refugee hosting". Malaysia Today is no longer published in Malaysia. Even the American Homeowners Association has moved its servers to Stockholm after relentless legal attacks in the United States. That’s why I’m excited about what is happening in Iceland, which has started to see the world in a new way after its mini-revolution a year ago. Over the past two months I have been part of a team in Iceland advising parliamentarians on a cross-party proposal to turn it into an international "journalism haven" – a jurisdiction designed to attract organisations into publishing online from Iceland, by adopting the strongest press and source protection laws from around the world."
There is likely to be a British delegation to the Icelandic parliament in the near future, so I’ll keep readers of this blog informed of developments.
Give something clever this Christmas – a year’s subscription to The Spectator for just £75. And we’ll give you a free bottle of champagne. Click here.