Anonymity

Anonymity in Europe

Right to Anonymity and Press Freedom in Sweden

In the Swedish Constitution: The Freedom of the Press Act (SFS nr: 1949:105)

In addition to the Instrument of Government, Sweden has three fundamental laws (Sveriges Grundlagar): the Act of Succession, the Freedom of the Press Act, which covers the right to Anonymity, and the Fundamental Law on Freedom of Expression. The Riksdag Act occupies an intermediate position between a fundamental law and ordinary law.

Fundamental laws are more difficult to amend than other laws. They may only be amended or abolished if two Riksdags have adopted identically formulated decisions, with an election intervening. No other laws or ordinances may conflict with the fundamental laws.

Freedom of the Press Act

The most recent Freedom of the Press Act was adopted in 1949 although Sweden established freedom of the press by law as early as 1766 and was first in the world to do so, at least according to its government. Freedom of the press means the right to disseminate information in printed form but with accountability before the law. Another feature of the Freedom of the Press Act is the citizens right to study public documents, and the principle of public access to official documents.

On joining the Eropean Union, Sweden was therefore obliged to make a few minor adjustments to the fundamental laws. For example, the Freedom of the Press Act was amended to enable the prohibition of advertisements for breast milk substitutes.

Chapter 3 of the Freedom of the Press Act has the heading “On the right to Anonymity”. Here is the content of Chapter 3:

  • Article 1 provides the following: An author of printed matter shall not be obliged to have his name, pseudonym or pen-name set out therein. This applies in like manner to a person who has communicated information under Chapter 1, Article 1, paragraph three, and to an editor of printed matter other than a periodical.
  • Article 2 provides the following: It shall not be permitted to inquire into the identity of an author or a person who has communicated information under Chapter 1, Article 1, paragraph three, in a case relating to an offence against the freedom of the press, nor shall it be permitted to inquire into the identity of the editor of non-periodical printed matter. However if, where non-periodical printed matter is concerned, the author or editor has been identified on the publication by name, or by means of a pseudonym or pen-name known generally to refer to a particular person, or if a person has acknowledged in a written statement that he is the author or editor, or has voluntarily made such a declaration before a court of law during the case, then the question of whether he is liable may be considered during the proceedings. The provisions of paragraph one notwithstanding, the question of liability for an offence under Chapter 7, Article 3, may be examined in the same court proceedings as cases referred to therein.
  • Article 3 provides the following: A person who has engaged in the production or publication of printed matter, or material intended for insertion therein, and a person who has been active in an enterprise for the publication of printed matter, or an enterprise which professionally purveys news or other material to periodicals, may not disclose what has come to his knowledge in this connection concerning the identity of an author, a person who has communicated information under Chapter 1, Article 1, paragraph three, or an editor of non-periodical printed matter. The duty of confidentiality under paragraph one shall not apply 1. if the person in whose favour the duty of confidentiality operates has given his consent to the disclosure of his identity; 2. if the question of identity may be raised under Article 2, paragraph one; 3. if the matter concerns an offence specified in Chapter 7, Article 3, paragraph one, point 1; 4. unless, where the matter concerns an offence under Chapter 7, Article 2 or 3, paragraph one, point 2 or 3, a court of law deems it necessary for information to be produced during the proceedings as to whether the defendant, or the person suspected on reasonable grounds of the offence, has communicated information or contributed to an item; or 5. unless, in any other case, a court of law deems it to be of exceptional importance, having regard to a public or private interest, for information as to identity to be produced in testimony under oath or in testimony by a party in the proceedings under an affirmation made in lieu of oath. In examination under paragraph two, point 4 or 5, the court shall scrupulously ensure that no questions are put which might encroach upon a duty of confidentiality in excess of what is permissible in each particular case.
  • Article 4 provides the following: No public authority or other public body may inquire into the identity of the author of material inserted, or intended for insertion, in printed matter, a person who has published, or who intends to publish, material in such matter, or a person who has communicated information under Chapter 1, Article 1, paragraph three, except insofar as this is necessary for the purpose of such prosecution or other action against him as is not contrary to the provisions of this Act. In cases in which such inquiries may be made, the duty of confidentiality under Article 3 shall be respected.
  • Article 5 provides the following: A person who, whether through negligence or by deliberate intent, inserts in printed matter the name, pseudonym or pen-name of the author, or, in a case under Article 1, the editor or source, against his wishes, or disregards a duty of confidentiality under Article 3, shall be sentenced to pay a fine or to imprisonment for up to one year. The same penalty shall apply to a person who, whether through negligence or by deliberate intent, publishes in printed matter as that of the author, editor or source, the name, pseudonym or pen-name of a person other than the true author, editor or source. Inquiries made in breach of Article 4, sentence one, if made deliberately, shall be punishable by a fine or imprisonment for up to one year. Criminal proceedings may be instituted on account of an offence under paragraph one only provided the injured party has reported the offence for prosecution.
  • Article 6 provides the following: For the purposes of this Chapter, a person deemed to be the originator of material inserted or intended for insertion in printed matter is equated with an author. (see more about the Constitution of Sweden here)

Other Chapters are:

  • Chapter 1: On the freedom of the press
  • Chapter 2: On the public nature of official documents
  • Chapter 4: On the production of printed matter
  • Chapter 5: On the publication of periodicals
  • Chapter 6: On the dissemination of printed matter
  • Chapter 7: On offences against the freedom of the press
  • Chapter 8: Liability rules
  • Chapter 9: On supervision and prosecution
  • Chapter 10: On special coercive measures
  • Chapter 11: On private claims for damages
  • Chapter 12: On court proceedings in freedom of the press cases
  • Chapter 13: On matter printed abroad etc.
  • Chapter 14: General provisions

Anonymity and Freedom of Expression in Sweden

In the Swedish Constitution: The Fundamental Law on Freedom of Expression (SFS nr: 1991:1469)

The Fundamental Law on Freedom of Expression was adopted in 1991 and is Swedens youngest fundamental law. Like the Freedom of the Press Act, it contains provisions on free dissemination of information and prohibits censorship. It covers old and new media, such as radio, TV, films and CD-ROM discs.

Chapter 2 of the Fundamental Law on Freedom of Expression has the heading ” On the right to anonymity”. Here are the content of Chapter 2:

  • Article 1 provides the following: The originator of a radio programme or technical recording is not obliged to disclose his identity. The same applies to a person taking part in such an item and to a person who has communicated information under Chapter 1, Article 2.
  • Article 2 provides the following: In cases concerning liability under penal law, damages or special legal effects on account of freedom of expression offences occurring in a radio programme or technical recording, no person may inquire into the identity of the originator of the item, or of a person who took part in it, made it available for publication or communicated information under Chapter 1, Article 2. If a person has been declared to be the originator of an item or to have taken part in it, the court may however examine whether he is liable. The same applies should any person in the case acknowledge himself to be the originator or person who took part. Paragraph one does not preclude consideration in the same court proceedings both of cases which concern freedom of expression offences and of cases which concern offences under Chapter 5, Article 3.
  • Article 3 provides the following: A person who has been concerned in the production or dissemination of an item comprising or intended to form part of a radio programme or technical recording and a person who has been active in a news agency may not disclose what has come to his knowledge in this connection concerning the identity of the person who originated the item or made it available for publication, took part in it or communicated information under Chapter 1, Article 2. The duty of confidentiality under paragraph one does not apply 1. if the person in whose favour the duty of confidentiality operates has given his consent to the disclosure of his identity; 2. if the question of identity may be raised under Article 2, paragraph two; 3. if the matter concerns an offence specified in Chapter 5, Article 3, paragraph one, point 1; 4. unless, where the matter concerns an offence under Chapter 5, Article 2 or 3, paragraph one, point 2 or 3, a court of law deems it necessary for information to be produced during the proceedings as to whether the defendant, or the person suspected on reasonable grounds of the offence, is the person in whose favour the duty of confidentiality operates under paragraph one; or 5. unless, in any other case, a court of law deems it to be of exceptional importance, having regard to a public or private interest, for information as to identity to be produced in testimony under oath or testimony by a party in the proceedings under an affirmation made in lieu of oath. 60 In examination under paragraph two, point 4 or 5, the court shall scrupulously ensure that no questions are put which might encroach upon a duty of confidentiality in excess of what is permissible in each particular case.
  • Article 4 provides the following: No public authority or other public body may inquire into the identity of 1. the originator of an item published or intended for publication in a radio programme or technical recording or a person who has taken part in such an item; 2. the person who made available or purposed to make available for publication an item in a radio programme or technical recording; or 3. the person who communicated information under Chapter 1, Article 2. This prohibition does not preclude inquiry in a case in which this Fundamental Law permits prosecution or other intervention. In such cases a duty of confidentiality under Article 3 shall however be respected.
  • Article 5 provides the following: A person who, whether through negligence or by deliberate intent, offends against a duty of confidentiality under Article 3 shall be sentenced to pay a fine or to imprisonment for up to one year. The same applies to a person who, whether through negligence or by deliberate intent, communicates false information in a radio programme or technical recording concerning the identity of the person who originated the item or made it available for publication, took part in it or communicated information therein. Inquiries made in breach of Article 4 are punishable by a fine or imprisonment for up to one year, if made deliberately. Public criminal proceedings may be instituted on account of an offence under paragraph one only provided the injured party has reported the offence for prosecution.

Other Chapters of the Law are:

  • Chapter 1. Basic provisions
  • Chapter 3. On transmission, production and dissemination
  • Chapter 4. On responsible editors
  • Chapter 5. On freedom of expression offences
  • Chapter 6. Liability rules
  • Chapter 7. On supervision, prosecution and special coercive measures
  • Chapter 8. On damages
  • Chapter 9. On court proceedings in freedom of expression cases
  • Chapter 10. On radio programmes and technical recordings emanating from abroad etc.
  • Chapter 11. General provisions

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