Coercive Measures

Coercive Measures in Europe

Special Coercive Measures against the Press in the Swedish Constitution

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 special coercive measures, and the Fundamental Law on Freedom of Expression. The Riksdag Act occupies an intermediate position between a fundamental law and ordinary law. The four fundamental laws of the country work in a similar manner to the constitutions of most countries.

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.

Chapter 10 of the Freedom of the Press Act has the heading “On special coercive measures”. Here are the content of Chapter 10:

  • Article 1 provides the following: If there are grounds for the possible confiscation of printed matter on account of an offence against the freedom of the press, the printed matter may be impounded pending a decision. In a case under Chapter 7, Article 8, an order may also be issued prohibiting publication of a periodical pending a decision by the court.
  • Article 2 provides the following: If the offence falls within the scope of public criminal proceedings, the Chancellor of Justice may order the printed matter to be impounded, and publication prohibited under Article 1, before proceedings have been instituted on account of an offence against the freedom of the press, or application made to the court for confiscation of the printed matter. It may be laid down in law that a public prosecutor may be similarly empowered to order material to be impounded within his jurisdiction.
  • Article 3 provides the following: If impoundment has been effected without a court order, the person affected may demand to have the matter examined before a court of law. When a public prosecutor has ordered material to be impounded, the Chancellor of Justice shall be notified promptly. The Chancellor of Justice shall determine forthwith whether the order shall be upheld.
  • Article 4 provides the following: When the Chancellor of Justice has ordered material to be impounded or has confirmed an order issued by a public prosecutor, criminal proceedings shall be instituted, or application made for confiscation of the printed matter, within two weeks from the date on which the Chancellor of Justice pronounced his decision. Failing such action, the impoundment order and any accompanying order prohibiting publication lapse.
  • Article 5 provides the following: Once criminal proceedings have been instituted for an offence against the freedom of the press or an application has been made to the court for printed matter to be confiscated, the court is entitled to order the matter to be impounded and publication prohibited, or to rescind an impoundment order or order prohibiting publication which has already been issued. In reaching its decision in such a case, the court shall determine whether an order which has been issued shall continue in force. If the case is dismissed because the court is not competent, or if the court otherwise dismisses the case without determining whether the printed matter is of a criminal nature, and if there is reason to suppose that there will be an application for confiscation in another 49 case, the court may confirm the order for a particular period which the court determines. If no proceedings are instituted within this period, the order lapses.
  • Article 6 provides the following: An impoundment order shall contain a statement indicating the passage or passages in the printed matter which occasioned the order and applies only to the volume, part, issue or instalment in which these passages occur.
  • Article 7 provides the following: An impoundment order shall be executed by the police authority forthwith. Provisions of law concerning the prohibition of the dissemination of printed matter which is subject to an impoundment order are laid down in Chapter 6, Article 3.
  • Article 8 provides the following: Impoundment of printed matter shall relate only to copies intended for dissemination. Proof of impoundment of printed matter shall be furnished as soon as possible, and free of charge, both to the person against whom impoundment was effected and to the person who printed the material. Such proof shall indicate the passage or passages in the printed matter which occasioned the impoundment order.
  • Article 9 provides the following: When an impoundment order has been rescinded or has lapsed, execution of impoundment is reversed forthwith. (see more about the Constitution of Sweden here)
  • Article 10 provides the following: Repealed.
  • Article 11 provides the following: If the country is at war or exposed to the danger of war and printed matter is discovered at a unit of the armed forces which manifestly constitutes such criminal sedition under Chapter 7, Article 4, as may induce members of the armed forces to neglect their duties, the printed matter may be taken into safe keeping pending issue of an impoundment order, on a decision by the officer competent in law to decide matters of disciplinary responsibility in respect of the unit concerned. If there is danger in delay, action as aforesaid may be taken also by another officer under provisions laid down in law, in default of a decision under paragraph one. Such action shall however be reported promptly to the officer referred to in paragraph one. This officer shall consider forthwith whether the printed matter shall remain in safe keeping.
  • Article 12 provides the following: When a decision has been made to take printed matter into safe keeping under the provisions of Article 11, the Chancellor of Justice shall be notified as soon as possible. The Chancellor of Justice then considers forthwith whether the printed matter shall be impounded.
  • Article 13 provides the following: General provisions of law applying to the impoundment of objects which may be declared forfeit apply to the impoundment of a periodical disseminated in violation of an order prohibiting publication, or manifestly constituting a continuation of a periodical, the publication of which has thus been prohibited.
  • Article 14 provides the following: A copy of printed matter which can reasonably be presumed to have significance for the investigation of a freedom of the press case may be impounded. The provisions of Articles 2 and 3; 5, paragraph one; 6; 7, paragraph one; and 9 apply. General provisions of law relating to impoundment apply in relevant parts. Criminal proceedings shall however always be instituted within one month from the date on which the impoundment order was issued, if the court does not allow an extension in response to a submission from the Chancellor of Justice.

Other Chapters of the Act:

  • Chapter 1: On the freedom of the press
  • Chapter 2: On the public nature of official documents
  • Chapter 3: On the right to anonymity
  • 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 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

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