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    A Chat with the Icelandic MP Who Wants to Ban Porn

    The last time we touched on the proposed Icelandic porn ban, we asked if it really matters. This time around, we catch up with Ögmundur Jónasson, an Icelandic MP and the former interior minister who is proposing the ban.

    You might recall the media blitz around the ban this winter. Since then, things have gotten sleepy (aside from the Icelandic elections, where the center-right Progressive Party has come into power, putting a hold for talks about joining the EU, among other colorful things).

    There was an anti-censorship campaign co-spearheaded by former Wikileaks activist and Icelandic MP Birgitta Jónsdóttir together with the International Modern Media Institute, who wrote an open letter to Jónasson. It was signed by a group of 40 international human rights advocates from 19 countries, citing the potential porn ban is harmful to a democracy, “and must be protected at all costs.”

    Iceland is the most sparsely populated country in Europe with a population of 320,000. It also has the highest rate of internet users at 95 percent. If the porn ban goes through, porn will be illegal to watch in Iceland. The Icelandic government is planning to use internet filters, similar to Chinese firewalls, to block porn in the country.

    The distribution, publication or import of porn is illegal in Iceland, according to the Icelandic Penal Code (a law which was written before internet pornography existed). Some say it fails to clearly define what pornography is. Strip clubs have been banned in Iceland since 2010.

    Jónasson is still working on the porn ban. We asked him about the open letter, how pornography is defined, and whether he has ever watched porn.

    MOTHERBOARD: Has anything changed since the porn ban media blitz in February?

    Things seemed to have quieted down. The discussion is still taking place and I shall be following the issue in Parliament when it reconvenes in the autumn.

    Why is it important for this issue to not be silenced?

    Because it is a question of human rights.

    I spoke with Þórdís Elva Þorvaldsdóttir who wrote the sex ed film, Fáðu já (Get Consent), which was shown in Icelandic public schools earlier this year. She said the porn industry probably wouldn’t even notice if all Icelanders stopped using porn altogether. What do you think?

    I disagree. The industry fears, and tries to silence, a discussion which threatens its existence. It is not a question of number of customers but the symbolic importance of standing up against a ruthless greedy industry.

    Do you know if the educational video has helped in schools, if at all? Are there other educational programs in the works?

    The film and the discussion that it has stimulated have done a lot of good. It is important that there be a follow up with “educational programs.” I shall be doing my best to put pressure to this effect.

    You were quoted in the Guardian saying this argument is not to be confused with freedom of expression. What are some people failing to see?

    They are failing to see that the internet is not society as such but part of society, a medium which must be used responsibly. If the salesmen of violence are forcing their way into the world of our children with materiel we would never tolerate on a school stage or on a street corner, why on earth should we tolerate it on the internet?

    What do you think of the public letter initiated by IMMI.is? Smári McCarthy, the director from IMMI, said it would be “entirely impossible” for the porn ban to be passed. Do you have anything to say to the people who signed the letter?

    I would ask them why they are ready to stand up for the producers and salesmen of violence, greedy ruthless business interests and not for those who are being misused. They justify this in the name of human rights and the defence of liberty! I would like to ask if there was not a contradiction there somewhere.

    Some view porn as art. How is pornography defined?

    Eroticism may be art, and nudity and sex may be presented artistically and beautifully. If being violent to other people - hurting others - has become an art form in somebody’s mind - I must say that I for one would associate this with degeneration if not criminality and not art. And violence is not to be venerated. As to the definition of porn, then this is something we had legal experts look into. Porn is banned in the Icelandic penal law but definition is lacking and I asked this to be looked into with respect to practice in other countries such as Norway. What we are concerned with is violence rather than sex.

    Whose idea was the porn ban? Just curious to see how this came about.

    No ban has been introduced, only the discussion has been initiated. But the industry has reacted hysterically. Not strange, this is a lucrative business which does not want to be disturbed.

    Have you ever watched porn? What is your personal view of it?

    I am describing my opinions to you.

    Not all types of pornography are violent, some is consensual entertainment. Do you disagree?

    I am not against nakedness, nor am I against sex. I am against violence. And I am against an industry that does not leave our children alone.

    Topics: pornography

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