Censorship

Censorship in Europe

The freedom of expression and information is a fundamental element in the principles of democracy, rule of law, and respect for human rights.

Censorship and Freedom of Expression in Sweden

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

In addition to the Instrument of Government, Sweden has three fundamental laws (Sveriges Grundlagar): the Act of Succession, the Freedom of the Press Act, and the Fundamental Law on Freedom of Expression, which covers supervision, prosecution and special coercive measures relating to expression and other topics. The Riksdag Act occupies an intermediate position between a fundamental law and ordinary law. The four fundamental lwas formed the Constitution of Sweden.

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 7 of the Fundamental Law on Freedom of Expression has the heading “On supervision, prosecution and special coercive measures”. Here is the content of Chapter 7:

  • Article 1 provides the following: The rules laid down in Chapter 9, Articles 1 to 4 of the Freedom of the Press Act concerning supervision and prosecution shall apply also with regard to radio programmes and technical recordings, and freedom of expression cases. The Chancellor of Justice may delegate a public prosecutor to act as prosecutor in a freedom of expression case which concerns liability or confiscation on account of unlawful portrayal of violence, agitation against a population group, offences against civil liberty, unlawful threats, threats made against a public servant or perversion of the course of justice committed in a technical recording. The right to institute public criminal proceedings may not however be delegated where the matter concerns the freedom of expression offences agitation against a population group or offences against civil liberty. In the case of radio programmes, the period within which public criminal proceedings may be instituted for a freedom of expression offence is six months from the date on which the programme was broadcast, or, where the matter concerns the making available of information under Chapter 1, Article 9, from the date on which the information was no longer kept available. In the case of technical recordings, the period is one year from the date on which the recording was published. In the case of recordings which lack any of the information prescribed under Chapter 3, Article 13, however, the rules laid down in law concerning the period during which an action may be brought apply, with the limitation that public criminal proceedings may not be instituted more than two years from the date on which the recording was brought to the attention of the Chancellor of Justice.
  • Article 2 provides the following: If a freedom of expression offence has been committed in a technical recording and no one is liable under Chapter 6 for the offence, the public prosecutor or the plaintiff may apply to have the recording confiscated instead of instituting criminal proceedings. The same applies if no summons can be served in Sweden on the person liable for the offence.
  • Article 3 provides the following: The provisions laid down in Chapter 10 of the Freedom of the Press Act concerning the impoundment of printed matter shall apply also concerning the impoundment of technical recordings. In the case of recordings, written documents or pictures under Chapter 1, Article 9, paragraph one, point 1, where the matter concerns impoundment for the purpose of investigation on account of a freedom of expression offence, the provisions of Chapter 10, Article 14 of the Freedom of the Press Act apply. In the case of technical recordings, the provisions laid down in paragraphs two and three of this Article however apply in place of Chapter 10, Articles 6 and 8, paragraph two of the Freedom of the Press Act. If the time referred to in Chapter 10, Article 4 of the Freedom of the Press Act is insufficient having regard to the scope of the impoundment or for any other reason, the court may allow an extension following a submission from the Chancellor of Justice. Such extension shall not relate to a period in excess of what is unavoidably necessary and may not amount to more than two weeks in all. The provisions of Chapter 10, Article 3, paragraph two of the Freedom of the Press Act do not apply if the Chancellor of Justice has delegated a public prosecutor to act as prosecutor in a freedom of expression case under Article 1, paragraph one of this Chapter. The provisions 67 of Chapter 10, Articles 2, 4 and 14 of the Freedom of the Press Act and of this Article regarding the duties of the Chancellor of Justice apply in such a case also to the public prosecutor. All impoundment decisions shall indicate which passage or passages in the item caused the material to be impounded. If it is not possible when effecting an impoundment under Chapter 10, Article 14 of the Freedom of the Press Act to indicate in the decision every such passage in detail, the passages which are being adduced as criminal shall be set out in a separate decision as soon as possible after the event. Impoundment relates only to the specific discs, reels or other such parts of the recording in which the passages occur. Proof of a decision to impound material shall be furnished as soon as possible, and free of charge, to the person against whom impoundment has been effected and to the person who caused the technical recording to be made. Such proof shall indicate the passage or passages in the recording which occasioned the order. (see more about the Constitution of Sweden here)
  • Article 4 provides the following: It may be laid down in an act of law that a commission, the composition of which is laid down in law and whose chairman shall hold currently, or shall have held previously, an appointment as a permanent salaried judge, shall examine whether a radio programme which has been transmitted by some means other than landline complies with the provisions or other conditions applying to such transmissions. Such a commission may only express an opinion and enjoin the transmitter to observe the provisions or conditions. The act of law may prescribe that an injunction of the commission may be associated with penalties. Questions concerning liability for freedom of expression offences and the imposition of penalties are always examined by a court of law under Chapter 3, Article 5.
  • Article 5 provides the following: It may be laid down in an act of law that there shall be special supervision to ensure that there is no abuse of the freedom of expression in films, video recordings or other technical recordings containing moving pictures by means of unlawful portrayal of violence, and to ensure that recordings of this nature which contain violence or threats of violence are not disseminated for gainful purposes to persons under the age of fifteen. It may be prescribed in this connection that a supervising authority shall be empowered to take temporarily into safe keeping a copy of a film, video recording or technical recording containing moving pictures which it can be presumed includes unlawful portrayal of violence.
  • Article 6 provides the following: The provisions concerning restrictions of fundamental rights and freedoms contained in Chapter 2, Article 12, paragraphs two to five, and Article 13 of the Instrument of Government apply in respect of provisions under Articles 4 and 5.
  • Other Chapters of the Law are:

  • Chapter 1. Basic provisions
  • Chapter 2. On the right to anonymity
  • Chapter 3. On transmission, production and dissemination
  • Chapter 4. On responsible editors
  • Chapter 5. On freedom of expression offences
  • Chapter 6. Liability rules
  • 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
  • Further Reading

    Censorship: A World Encyclopedia, Derek Jones, 2001

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