IFJ Backs Journalists in Protest Over “Political Hands” at Work in Top Job at Iceland Radio

The International Federation of Journalists today gave its full backing to journalists working at the national broadcasting service in Iceland who are threatening industrial action over what they claim is political interference in the appointment of a new chief editor of radio news.

“Reporters and editors have every right to protest when they see political hands at work in the appointment of senior editors,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. 

The IFJ was responding to news that members of the IFJ affiliated Icelandic Union of Journalists at the national broadcaster (RUV) will refuse to work alongside the new person appointed to take over radio news on April 1, because he is poorly qualified compared to other candidates, but who has family connections with the progressive party of Iceland Prime Minister Halldor Grimsson and has influential friends in the prime minister’s office.

“Journalists are concerned that this appointment lacks all credibility and if it goes ahead will damage the editorial integrity of radio system,” said White.

Icelandic journalists reacted after a number of well qualified and respected journalists recommended for the post by the head of the station’s news division were passed over in favour of a recommendation from a political committee which supervises the work of the station. The final decision is taken by the head of the RUV, who is politically appointed, and who decided to go with the recommendation of the political committee.

“The new chief editor, besides having friends in high places, has limited experience compared to other candidates,” says the journalists’ union. The IFJ wants the authorities to think again and to reconsider all of the other candidates.

The national broadcaster RUV has been an independent public service broadcaster, formally owned by the Icelandic state since 1930. It is financially independent, its principal sources of income being the licence fee and revenues from advertisements, which pay for one television channel and two radio channels that cover the whole of Iceland. It supports regional radio programmes and, according to the law, is obliged to promote the Icelandic language, Icelandic history and Iceland's cultural heritage.

“The RUV radio news office is one of the oldest and most respected news outlets in Iceland,” said Aidan White. “But its credibility will be shredded beyond repair if this blatant case of political interference in editorial affairs is not overturned. Respect for democratic rules, human rights and freedom of speech and opinion in the station’s mandate means that the case must be reviewed.”

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The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries