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About the Author

Asza Valdimarsdottir
Stringer (Reykjavik, Iceland)

Born in Iceland, raised in Malaysia and Thailand. Did an Undergraduate degree in English Literature in Ontario, Canada and an MA in International Broadcast Journalism in London, United Kingdom. Currently a stringer for an International (undisclosed) News Agency in Iceland. Oh, and Asza is pronounced 'ah-sha'.


Where everybody knows your name

Published 22nd August 2010 - 5 comments - 2951 views -

.. but they're not always glad you came.

You can run, but you can't hide
When you live on a tiny volcanic island in the North Atlantic, and your ethnicity is Icelandic, you are - without a doubt - related to at least 50% of the people that inhabit the island. I believe (but won't state it as fact) that every single Icelandic person can be traced to one another as being related by blood with as little as six degrees of separation. This, in many ways, isn't all bad. Yes, the genetic pool isn't that varied, but this also means that when it comes to "it's not what you know, but WHO you know" - you will know somebody.
Because of this near incestuous way of living, murders are fairly uncommon. In the past ten years, twenty murders have been committed. Although that almost seems rather high: an average of two murders a year, it most certainly doesn't compare to any other capital city - probably in the world. The thing with Icelandic murders, however, is that the chance of getting away with one, are slim to none. For one simple reason: There's nowhere to run.

The problem with "knowing"
Just a few weeks ago a man was murdered in a town off of Reykjavik. Shortly after the man's girlfriend found him dead, a man was arrested on suspicion of murder. The man who was arrested got his fifteen seconds of fame last year when he published a video on YouTube declaring is undying love for the victim's girlfriend. That video is what got him arrested. Perhaps a valid assumption by the police, but he has now been released - after Icelandic media published his picture and re-published the video. At the moment, nobody has been charged with the murder - but a innocent (until proven guilty, at least) man had his picture and name all over everything Icelandic for a good 24-48hrs.
Is this a case of simply bad tact on behalf of journalists, or is it that with such a small population, people - too often - think they know more than they do?

Category: Media | Tags:


  • Larisa Rankovic on 23rd August 2010:

    In Serbia there is Ethical Code of Journalists, accepted by different journalist and media associations, in which it is stated that name, photo and other revealing details of a person cannot be published until he/she is guilty by the court decision.  However, media publish such information on daily basis.

  • Iwona Frydryszak on 23rd August 2010:

    Hi Asza! I think it is typical problem for all nordic territories. My friend has been working as a guide in the Svalbard archipelago. It is almost as big as Scotland and there are only 2000 people, 20 km of roads and half year totally dark. If you will leave the town polar bear can eat you so the mobility is limited grin He told me that there are a few police men and what tragedy happened when they catch one young boy for speeding. Poor guy, whole city were angry on him after grin Of course it is not as serious as murder but in Svalbard there is more serious when you kill a polar bear than a human anyway grin

  • Helena Goldon on 23rd August 2010:

    Bad ethics.

    If all over the world you have 6 degrees of separation, I would go as far as to say that it may be that every single Icelandic person can be 5 people away from another Icelandic - can you get any stats on that, Asza?

  • Asza Valdimarsdottir on 23rd August 2010:

    @Larisa - Iceland has a Journalistic Code of Ethics as well, but when someone is already a household name, this code seems to get blurred.

    @Iwona - That’s crazy. I can’t believe a Polar Bear’s live is more important than a human’s..

    @Helena - Definitely bad ethics. I thought the 6-degrees-of-separationg for the world had to do with just knowing one another, not relation, no? Either way - I looked it up. Apparently Iceland’s as close as 4-degrees BUT I’m not sure how reliable this source is: of separation iceland&f=false

    “Iceland is not a good place for anonymity. The common belief is that all Icelanders are related by no more than four degrees of seperation. As proof, there is a national website ( where any two Icelanders can easily find out how they are connected by blood or marriage. The site is password protected for Icelanders only, and goes back to the late 1700s (there is no need to go back any further).”

  • Helena Goldon on 23rd August 2010:

    I really appreciate your research on the topic, Asza, thanks.
    4-degrees smile what a small island it is!

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