Dissemination in Europe

Dissemination of Printed Matter and Press Freedom in Sweden

Note: see also the information about the production of Printed Materials in Sweden here.

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 dissemination of printed matter, 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.

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 6 of the Freedom of the Press Act has the heading “On the dissemination of printed matter”. Here are the content of Chapter 6:

  • Article 1 provides the following: It shall be the right of every Swedish citizen and Swedish legal person to sell, consign, or otherwise disseminate printed matter, either alone or with the assistance of others. (see more about the Constitution of Sweden here)
  • Article 2 provides the following: The provisions of this Act notwithstanding, provisions laid down in law shall apply in cases in which a person 1. exhibits a pornographic picture on or at a public place, by displaying it or the like, in a manner liable to cause offence to the general public, or sends such a picture by post or other means to another person who has not ordered it in advance; 42 2. disseminates among children and young persons printed matter which by reason of its content might have a brutalising effect, or otherwise seriously imperil the moral tutelage of the young. More detailed rules concerning the dissemination of maps of Sweden or parts thereof which contain information of significance for the defence of the Realm, and dissemination of plans or pictures of a similar nature, are laid down in law.
  • Article 3 provides the following: If written matter under Chapter 4, Article 2, paragraph one, lacks the information prescribed therein, or if such information, or information provided under Chapter 1, Article 5, paragraph one, point 2, in written matter referred to therein is incorrect, and this fact is known to the disseminator, the penalty is a money fine. The penalty for the dissemination of printed matter which, to the knowledge of the disseminator, has been impounded or confiscated, or published in violation of a ban issued under this Act, or which manifestly constitutes a continuation of printed matter the publication of which has thus been prohibited, is a fine or imprisonment for up to one year.
  • Article 4 provides the following: The consignment of printed matter by post or other common carrier shall not be subject to special restrictions or conditions on grounds of content. This shall not however apply to the consignment of printed matter which constitutes a violation of the provisions of Article 3. A common carrier who has accepted printed matter for carriage shall not be deemed to be a disseminator.

Other Chapters of the Act are:

  • 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 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

Leave a Comment