Expression Liability

Expression Liability in Europe

Expression Liability 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 liability rules 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 6 of the Fundamental Law on Freedom of Expression has the heading “On supervision, prosecution and special coercive measures”. Here is the content of Chapter 6:

  • Article 1 provides the following: Liability under penal law for freedom of expression offences committed in a radio programme or technical recording rests with the responsible editor. If a deputy is acting in place of the responsible editor, liability rests with the deputy. In the case of direct broadcasts of radio programmes other than programmes under Chapter 1, Article 8, it may be laid down in law that a person taking part in a programme shall himself be liable for his own utterances.
  • Article 2 provides the following: Liability under penal law for freedom of expression offences which would otherwise rest with the responsible editor rests with the person responsible for appointing the responsible editor if 1. there was no qualified responsible editor at the time when the offence was committed; 2. the responsible editor was appointed for appearance’s sake or was manifestly incapable of exercising the powers set out in Chapter 4, Article 3; or 3. information concerning the responsible editor has not been kept available to the general public in the prescribed manner. If a deputy was acting in place of the responsible editor but was no longer qualified at the time when the offence was committed, or if his appointment had been terminated or some circumstance pertained concerning him of a nature set out in paragraph one, point 2 or 3, liability for freedom of expression offences rests with the responsible editor. If a technical recording lacks the information prescribed in Chapter 3, Article 13, paragraph one, concerning who caused it to be made, and clarity cannot be reached concerning his identity, or he has no known domicile in Sweden and cannot be reached in Sweden during the court proceedings, liability for freedom of expression offences committed in the technical recording rests with the disseminator instead of with the person stipulated in paragraph one. The provisions laid down in paragraph three concerning a case in which information is lacking apply also if the information provided implies that the person who caused the technical recording to be made is domiciled abroad, or if the information is incorrect and this fact is known to the disseminator. (see more about the Constitution of Sweden here)
  • Article 3 provides the following: If criminal proceedings are instituted in respect of a freedom of expression offence and the defendant considers some circumstance pertains as a result of which he shall not be liable, he shall adduce this circumstance prior to the main hearing. If he fails to do so, he will be regarded as liable.
  • Article 4 provides the following: The person liable under this Chapter for a freedom of expression offence in an item shall be regarded as having been cognizant of the content of the item. He shall also be regarded as having consented to its publication.

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 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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