Global Digest: Investigating 'sham marriages,' and Iceland becomes 'safe haven' for reporters

One of the side effects of the integration of Europe has been a boom in what a team of reporters in Ireland and Latvia call “sham marriages” between Europeans and non-Europeans, leading frequently to sexual abuse and trafficking. An investigation published recently in the Irish Times involved a team effort between Jamie Smyth in Ireland, and Aleksandra Jolkina, a Latvian journalist for the newspaper Diena (the link is for those who speak Latvian).  Jolkina has been probing deep into the links between organized crime and Latvian brides for the newspaper, and writing a book on the topic. She started the investigation by creating a false email account and inviting marriage proposals. She received quite a few, as she explains in English to the European Fund for Investigative Journalism.

Each member of the team was working on their separate investigations in their home countries – Smyth in Ireland and Jolkina in Latvia – when the Fund, created last year to provide support for Europe-wide investigations, helped bring them together to share sources and information.

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For those of us who have not been following the latest developments in Iceland, I bring important news: The country has declared itself the world’s first, official, ‘safe haven’ for the world’s investigative reporters and whistleblowers.

A remarkable law passed last summer – I feel compelled to point to a three-month-old development for those who might have missed it – is intended to turn Iceland into a sanctuary for global independent media, offering an umbrella of protection for sources and servers. The initiative seems to have been prompted by two converging events: On the one hand, Iceland’s financial collapse, spurred partly by the highly secret maneuverings of the nation’s banks, and, on the other, by the potential vulnerability of sites like Wikileaks to government subpoenas in an effort to unearth its sensitive sources.

While the details of the law are still being hammered out, and its unclear whether its unlikely to afford protection against libel charges – “publication” is likely to be defined in any country as the point of download, not the point at which a story is ‘uploaded’ – the law could offer some protections against investigations into anonymous sources, like those relied upon by Wikileaks. The law offers incentives for international media companies to register in Iceland, and a strong freedom of information act which can be used by journalists regardless of whether they’re based in Iceland. Here’s a clear summation of the genesis of the law, and its potential vulnerabilities, from al-Jazeera English on YouTube:

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Finally, here’s a nice glimpse into how the fact that the United States does not have a system permitting private financing of political campaigns is being perceived overseas: The European Internet Network (EIN), the largest European digital news service, features a story that focuses on the ability of secret money to influence the election, and the lingering impacts of the Supreme Court case, known as Citizens United, which struck down much of U.S. campaign finance laws requiring transparency.

 

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