'Media bias' Tag Archive

Dec 07 2016

An Uncertain Alternative


Árni Daníel Júlíusson

Iceland’s recent general election shows that the country’s neoliberal consensus is over. What happens next?

When the Icelandic parliament assembled in fall of 2010, tens of thousands gathered to throw eggs and rotten tomatoes at the politicians. The MPs were participating in a traditional march between the cathedral and the parliament building that marks the beginning of each legislative setting. Protesters repeated their performance exactly a year later, now with an even larger crowd.

These events marked the midpoint of Iceland’s anti-neoliberal rebellion, which had started in the fall of 2008 at the time of the financial collapse. The mass actions represented a definitive break with the neoliberal consensus the country had sustained since 1984.

Any government will now have to understand — and then accept — this popular revolt if it wants to credibly hold power. Old alliances and structures have collapsed, and new ones must be built.

This October’s elections reflected the changed political atmosphere. On the one hand, the results were inconclusive, failing to produce a clear majority that could form a government. On the other hand, they decisively showed the fate of the sitting government, made up of the centrist Progressive Party (FSF) and the right-wing Independence Party (XD). In 2013, they had received a clear majority of votes — each winning nineteen parliamentary seats out of a total of sixty-three — despite their direct responsibility for a number of bank collapses in 2008.

Between 1991 and 2008, XD enacted a unrelenting series of ultra-neoliberal and right-wing policies that led to the financial crisis. The basis for this neoliberal turn, however, was laid in the eighties, when an earlier Progressive-Independence coalition government held power.

How these parties returned to power in 2013 can only be explained by the events between the financial crisis and that election. Their fate in this October’s election gives us a sense of what might come next.

A Disgraced Left

When the Icelandic banks collapsed on October 6, 2008, a powerful mass movement appeared out of nowhere. By late November, it had become a grave threat to the government.

The movement was organized on several levels and had several centers of operations, which were mostly uncoordinated. All of them coalesced, however, in weekly meetings in the center of Reykjavík. On December 1, protesters convened a meeting at Arnarhóll, after which the more radical wing attacked and occupied the Central Bank of Iceland. A full-scale uprising — which many expected — did not materialize. Read More

Jan 30 2014

Skouries – A Story of Political Emancipation


How a mining conflict led to the political emancipation of a community in Northern Greece.

By Evi Papada

Occupied London – From the Greek Streets

Mining conflicts are increasingly surfacing globally due to complains over mines and pollution of water, soil and land occupied as well as over transport and waste disposal. The Skouries forest in Halkidiki has been at the center of a hot dispute between the mining company, Hellas Gold, a subsidiary of the Canadian mining giant Eldorado Gold and local communities. The company claims that an ambitious plan for mining of gold and copper in the area- including deforestation and open pit mining with excavation and everyday use of explosives- will benefit the region through the creation of some 5,000 direct and indirect jobs, while local residents argue that the planned investment will cause considerable damage to the environment  and livelihoods, resulting to many more jobs losses in the existing sectors of the local economy (farming, pasture land, fisheries, beekeeping, food processing and tourism).  The residents’ claims are supported by research conducted by various independent scientific institutions including the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and the Technical Chamber of Macedonia. In addition to legitimacy questions underpinning the transfer of mining rights from the Greek state to the aforementioned company[1],  the Environmental Impact Assessment produced by El Dorado has been found to contain gross methodological discrepancies and whilst the public consultation process could be at best described as cosmetic[2]. Read More

Oct 28 2013

Come and Meet the Members of the Brand


By Haukur Már Helgason

After being hailed as the world’s radical wunderkind for a few years, Iceland left observers perplexed when the parties evidently responsible for its failed neoliberal experiment were voted back in 2013. Who or what runs this shop, really?

You “want to move outside the herd and be independent” because you are “different from the ‘ordinary’ tourist.” You “have above average education” and you “have above average income,” says the Icelandic Tourist Industry Association’s report from last year, defining their target group, ‘the enlightened tourist.’ And boy, are you targeted. Read More

May 06 2012

Back to the Future — The Unrestricted Spying of Yesterday… and Tomorrow?


By Snorri Páll Jónsson Úlfhildarson, originally published in The Reykjavík Grapevine.

This simply means that until spring last year, the police literally had a carte blanche regarding whom to spy on and for whatever reasons they chose. Unbeknownst the public, the instructions allowed unrestricted espionage.

“Good things happen slowly,” Björn Bjarnason, Iceland’s former Minister of Justice, wrote on his blog in March of last year when his successor in office, Minister of the Interior Ögmundur Jónasson, called for a press conference to announce that the police would soon be granted proactive investigation powers.

While Ögmundur and other Left Green MPs often criticised Björn for his aggressive efforts to increase police powers during the latter’s six years in office, he is now advocating for increased police powers as part of The State’s crusade against purported organised crime, which is believed to be predominantly manifested in a number of motorcycle gangs, including the Hells Angels.

A bill that he proposed to parliament last month does not contain the infinite investigation powers that the police have openly asked for, but does nevertheless allow them to start investigating people who they believe are planning acts that would fall under the category of organised crime and are punishable by at least four years of imprisonment.

While the case is usually presented as the police’s struggle to gain greater justifiable investigative powers — in which they have supposedly not fully succeeded — the fact is that, from at least July 1999 to May 2011, the police had unrestricted authority to monitor whomever they wanted due to poorly defined regulations. Read More

Dec 09 2011
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Time Has Told: The Kárahnjúkar Dams Disastrous Economical and Environmental Impacts


The profitability of Landsvirkjun, Iceland’s national energy company, is way too low. And worst off is the Kárahnjúkar hydro power plant, Europe’s largest dam, the company’s biggest and most expensive construction. Landsvirkjun’s director Hörður Arnarson revealed this during the company’s recent autumn meeting, and blamed the low price of energy sold to large-scale energy consumers, such as Alcoa’s aluminium smelter in Reyðarfjörður, as one of the biggest factors reducing profit.

These news echo the many warnings made by the opponents of the cluster of five dams at Kárahnjúkar and nearby Eyjabakkar, who repeatedly stated that the project’s alleged profitability was nothing but an illusion, but were systematically silenced by Iceland’s authorities.

Now, as these facts finally become established in the media—this time straight from the horse’s mouth—similarly bad news has arrived regarding another big Icelandic energy company. Reykjavík Energy has failed to make a profit from their 2007 and 2008 investments, effectively making them lose money.

At the same time, new research shows that the environmental impacts of the Kárahnjúkar dams are exactly as vast and serious as environmentalists and scientists feared.

And yet, more dams, geothermal power-plants and aluminium smelters are on the drawing table—presented as the only viable way out of the current economic crisis. Read More

Nov 05 2011
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When Two Become One – On The Ever Impenetrable Handshake Between Public Relations and Media


By Snorri Páll Jónsson Úlfhildarson, originally published in The Reykjavík Grapevine.

Those who are yet to give up on Icelandic media cannot have avoided noticing one Kristján Már Unnarsson, a news director and journalist at TV station Stöð 2. Kristján, who in 2007 received the Icelandic Press Awards for his coverage of “everyday countryside life”, is a peculiar fan of manful and mighty constructions and loves to tell good news to and about all the “good heavy industry guys” that Iceland has to offer.

To be more precise, Kristján has, for at least a decade (and I say “at least” just because my memory and research doesn’t take me further back), gone on a rampage each and every time he gets the chance to tell his audience about the newest of news in Iceland’s heavy industry and energy affairs. He talks about gold-mills when referring to dams built to power aluminium production; and when preparing an evening news item on, say, plans regarding energy and aluminium production, he usually doesn’t see a reason for talking to more than one person – a person who, almost without exception, is in favour of whatever project is being discussed.

After witnessing Kristján’s latest contribution to the ongoing development of heavy industry and large-scale energy production, i.e. his coverage of Alcoa’s recently announced decision not to continue with its plan of building a new aluminium smelter in Húsavík, wherein he managed to blame just anything but Alcoa itself for the company’s decisions, I couldn’t resist asking (and, really, not for the first time): What can really explain this way too obvious one-sidedness, manifest not only in this one journalist’s work but seemingly the majority of news coverage concerning heavy industry? Read More

Oct 07 2011

Inspired By Iceland… No, really!


Árni Daníel Júlíusson

It is funny how things can turn around. For decades, Iceland languished in neoliberal hell, with signs of opposition few and far between. Meanwhile the opposition to the neoliberal order of things grew all over the world—with massive protests in Seattle, Genoa and elsewhere—and the beginnings of a world-wide anti-globalisation movement represented by the World Social Forum, first held in Porto Alegre, Brazil, in 2001. Almost nobody in Iceland did or said anything to support these powerful movements against the neoliberal order, with the exception of the brave Saving Iceland organisation. Read More

Jun 29 2011
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The Icelandic Geothermal Cluster: Banks, Universities, Ministries, Energy Companies and Aluminium Producers Join Forces


Dozens of Icelandic companies and institutions, all directly connected to the heavy industrialization of Iceland, have established a co-operating forum concerning the development of the so-called “Icelandic geothermal cluster”. The forum, which was formally established yesterday, June 28th, is originally a conception by Dr. Michael Porter, professor at Harvard Business School and known as “a leading authority on company strategy and the competitiveness of nations and regions.” Interviewed by a news-report TV show Kastljós, Porter, who was in Iceland to take part in the forum’s formal establishment, said that Icelanders are “too cautious” when it comes to “using the opportunities that consist in geothermal energy and the nation’s expertise on the issue.” Contrary to Porter, environmentalists and Iceland’s National Energy Authority fear the overexploitation of geothermal resources. Read More

May 20 2011
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Cover-ups and Evasions Condoned by the Minister of the Interior


Statement from Saving Iceland regarding the recently published report by the National Commissioner’s ‘National Security Unit’. The report was requested by the Minister of the Interior and was supposed to answer the questions if the Icelandic police were aware of and collaborated in British police spy Mark Kennedy’s infiltration of the Saving Iceland network. (Translated from Icelandic.)

The Saving Iceland network has spent some time examining the report authored  by the National Commissioner’s ‘National Security Unit’ published on May 17. Already at this stage we would like to make a considerable number of remarks.

First of all we have to express our astonishment if Ögmundur Jónasson, the Minister of the Interior is going to accept as valid the poorly reasoned cover-ups that are resorted to by the report’s authors. It is also remarkable how superficial and simply untrue the Minister’s own interpretation of the report has been so far. Unfortunately the same is true of the coverage of the report made by some of the Icelandic corporate media.

The report’s most serious flaw is of course the fact that it completely evades the responsibility that it was officially intended to assume. The only de facto information about the report’s actual subject is on page 12,  where it is stated that the police received “confidential information” concerning the intended protests against the Kárahnjúkar dam from both domestic and foreign “informers”, and that this information was used to organize the police’s reaction. Read More

Feb 26 2011
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After Iceland’s Financial Storm, Reykjavik 9 Gather Steam


TheFreshOutlook.Com

In one of the most controversial trials in Iceland, four of a group popularly known as the “Reykjavik 9” have been sentenced. A most fascinating, and what many have also termed “absurd” case in the country’s recent history has seen nine peaceful protesters accused of threatening the sovereignty of the Parliament; being charged with article 100 of the country’s penal code which deals with acts of terrorism– one that carries a sentence from a year to life in prison.

Reykjavik District Court announced its ruling of the case on February 16, amidst tremendous national furore, as the Reykjavik 9 waited for their verdict on “attacking” the Icelandic Parliament, Althingi, in December 2008. All nine defendants were acquitted of their initial charges. However, four were found guilty of rioting and were slapped with sentences ranging from fines to conditional prison sentences up to 4 months. Read More