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General News    H2'ed 4/18/13

These Descendants of Vikings, Innovating Democracy and the Internet

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Message Marianne Hoynes

Enter into this story our next hero, Birgitta Jonsdottir, member of Icelandic Parliament and Wikileaks. She was elected to office in 2009 amidst the people's desire for democratic reform.

Birgitta is part of the Pirate Party, a movement which stands for online privacy for the individual and transparency for the state and corporations. The Icelandic Pirate Party has the support of 10% of people under 30 years old, according to News of Iceland. As one Pirate Party Declaration of Principles states, "The right to free communication and privacy is not a threat, it is a prerequisite for humans and democracy to thrive. Free knowledge is not a threat, it is a prerequisite for innovation and progress. Shared culture should not be a crime, it is among the most beautiful things one can give, both to culture and to fellow humans."

Birgitta is the champion of the International Modern Media Initiative, which was an unprecedented and truly modern marvel for new laws of online protection for freedom of expression. This law passed unanimously in Parliament, and went on to become 13 separate laws, which is the cornerstone of Iceland becoming the safe haven for whistleblowers, independent journalists, new media start-ups, human rights groups and internet data centers.

Some cutting edge laws that have come out of the IMMI so far are whistleblower protections for those who step forward to reveal important matters in the public interest; protection for the communications between an anonymous source and a media organisation; protection of internet service providers, ISPs and telecommunications carriers; and process protections, which permit a judge to declare a case to be related to free speech, and that free speech cannot therefore be constrained by unequal access to justice or judicial demands.

But Iceland is now mired down in politics as usual. Ogmundur Jonasson, Iceland's interior minister, tried to create legislation that would build a firewall in Iceland so that the government would have the power to censor the internet. It is the same kind of legislation that China has passed, and that the US has been trying to pass for the last two years. Ogmundur cloaked this legislation under the guise of blocking internet porn, but the people did not fall for it, and the legislation was defeated.

The Parliament is unwilling so far, to vote for the People's Constitution. There is speculation that the President of Parliament may be guilty of illegal behavior, preventing the People's Constitution from being ratified by the full House of Parliament since its completion in 2011. When the bill recently came to a vote, the largest of the ten political parties refused to vote at all, while two other political parties voted against this people-powered, crowd sourced Constitution. Birgitta Jonsdottir and the Pirate Party are still championing the people's voice, and they were shut out of even being able to cast a vote for the People's Constitution.

Hordur Torfason said in an interview, "Money and political parties control the media, and they don't want people to protest. They work against us [to maintain their power]. I don't trust the media. I remember the first time when I stood in front of Parliament I was looking for young people who were good with computers, because that's our media now, Facebook and so on. That really was the catalyst that reached thousands of supporters through social media and emails".  Hordur Torfason went on to support the Kitchenware Revolution in Montreal, the longest protest in Canadian history, where university students protested a hike in tuition and actually won, with a strong unrelenting spirit.

There will be an election on April 27, 2013 for the House of Parliament. Many young people around the world are pulling for the Pirate Party and Birgitta Jonsdottir, the first Icelander to become so important on the world stage for the future of the internet. Smari McCarthy, member of the Pirate Party, blogger and hacktivist recently said, "We are not promising to create a glamorous future for [our young people], but we are offering them a chance to create their own future". Now the world waits, watching Iceland, these descendants of Vikings, innovators of democracy, to see if the people's voice will be amplified or silenced.

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"If you tremble indignation at every injustice then you are a comrade of mine." - Ernesto Che Guevara PRIVACY NOTICE: Warning - any person and/or institution and/or Agent and/or Agency of any governmental structure including but not limited to (more...)
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