REYKJAVIK — Iceland is becoming an offshore safe haven for information, an insider with whistleblower website WikiLeaks said Friday.
Iceland's parliament, the Altingi, voted Tuesday to task government with finding ways to increase information freedom and to provide stronger protections for media sources and whistleblowers to make Iceland a leader in freedom of expression.
The Icelandic Modern Media Initiative, or IMMI "aims to create an offshore safe haven for information, to add to transparency," said Kristinn Hrafnsson, an investigative journalist with public broadcaster RUV, who has co-operated with Wikileaks.
Even before the passing of the initiative, which was in part drafted by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, work on the project had created a secure environment for revealing sensitive information, he told AFP.
A controversial WikiLeaks video released in April of a US Apache helicopter strike in Baghdad that killed two employees of the Reuters news agency and a number of other people had, for instance, been edited in Reykjavik, he pointed out.
"At the time, Iceland seemed to be the safest place to prepare for the release of the video and do the necessary fact checks," said Hrafnsson, who took part in the process.
WikiLeaks has only said it obtained the video "from a number of military whistleblowers," but the US military last week said it had arrested 22-year-old specialist Bradley Manning for allegedly being the source of the leak.
The release of the video was vital to "showing the gruesome reality behind statistics of what the US army calls 'collateral damage'," Hrafnsson said.
"It is the most important visual evidence coming out of Iraq since the exposure of the photographs from Abu Ghraib," a jail that has become synonymous with abuse in Iraqi prisons.
Manning reportedly also may have leaked other material to WikiLeaks, including separate video of a 2009 air strike in Afghanistan in which many civilians were killed.
Wikileaks has not confirmed that Manning is the source of the Baghdad Apache attack video, but Hrafnsson acknowledged the website was preparing the release of the Afghanistan air strike video.