Freedom of Expression on the Internet

Freedom of Expression on the Internet 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.

Freedom of Expression on the Internet 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 the transmission, production, dissemination of 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 3 of the Fundamental Law on Freedom of Expression has the heading “On transmission, production and dissemination”. Here is the content of Chapter 3:

In relation to Radio programmes :

  • Article 1 provides the following: Every Swedish citizen and every Swedish legal person has the right to transmit radio programmes by landline. The freedom which follows from paragraph one does not preclude the publication in law of provisions concerning 1. the obligation of network owners to make space available for certain programmes, to the extent necessary having regard to the public interest in access to comprehensive information; 2. the obligation of network owners to make space available for transmissions, to the extent necessary having regard to the interest of network competition in respect of such transmissions, or the public interest in having access to such transmissions; 3. the obligation of network owners to take steps to assure listeners of influence over programme choice; or 4. interventions against continued transmission of a programme range directed towards the portrayal of violence, pornographic pictures or agitation against a population group.
  • Article 2 provides the following: The right to transmit radio programmes other than by landline may be regulated in an act of law containing provisions on licensing and conditions of transmission. 61 The public institutions shall seek to ensure that radio frequencies are utilised in such a way as to result in the widest possible freedom of expression and freedom of information. The opportunity shall exist for organised groups of persons to obtain a licence to broadcast sound radio programmes on local radio transmissions, insofar as available frequencies permit. More detailed provisions in this connection are laid down in law.
  • Article 3 provides the following: In the case of restrictions of the right to broadcast of the nature envisaged in Articles 1 and 2, the provisions of Chapter 2, Article 12, paragraphs two to five, and Article 13 of the Instrument of Government concerning restrictions of fundamental rights and freedoms apply.
  • Article 4 provides the following: A person broadcasting radio programmes is free to determine independently the content of programmes. (see more about the Constitution of Sweden here)
  • Article 5 provides the following: Questions concerning the right to broadcast radio programmes are examined before a court of law or 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. Examination of a Government decision shall take place before a court of law and need relate only to the legality of the decision. If the matter relates to a question of intervention on account of an abuse of the freedom of expression, the case shall be examined by a court of law sitting with a jury, in accordance with detailed rules laid down in law. This does not however apply if the matter relates to a violation of provisions or conditions regarding commercial advertising, other advertising or transmission of radio programmes under Chapter 1, Article 12, paragraph two.
  • Article 6 provides the following: Provisions may be laid down in law concerning an obligation to retain recordings of radio programmes and make them available for subsequent scrutiny, and to furnish them to archives. (see more about the Constitution of Sweden here)
  • Article 7 provides the following: Provisions aimed at preventing the dissemination through radio programmes of maps, drawings or pictures which represent Sweden, either in whole or in part, and which contain information of significance for the defence of the Realm, may be laid down in law.

In relation to Technical recordings:

  • Article 8 provides the following: Every Swedish citizen and every Swedish legal person has the right to produce and disseminate technical recordings. Scrutiny and approval under Chapter 1, Article 3, paragraph two, may however be required for the right to show in public a film, video recording or other technical recording containing moving pictures.
  • Article 9 provides the following: Provisions concerning an obligation to retain copies of technical recordings and make them available for scrutiny may be laid down in law. Provisions may also be laid down in law concerning an obligation to furnish copies of such recordings to a public authority and provide information in connection with such obligation.
  • Article 10 provides the following: No postal service or other common carrier may refuse to forward technical recordings on grounds of their content other than in cases where forward-ing would constitute a violation under Article 13, paragraph three or four. A common carrier who accepts a technical recording for forwarding shall not be regarded as the disseminator of the recording under Chapter 6.
  • Article 11 provides the following: The provisions laid down in law concerning a case in which, for gainful purposes, a person supplies to a person under the age of fifteen a film, video recording or other technical recording containing moving pictures with detailed representations of a realistic nature which include acts of violence or threats of violence against persons or animals apply without hindrance of this Fundamental Law.
  • Article 12 provides the following: The rules set out in this Fundamental Law do not preclude the laying down in law of provisions concerning penalties and special legal effects in respect of a person who 1. exhibits pornographic pictures on or at a public place by displaying them or the like in a manner liable to cause offence to the general public; 2. supplies pornographic pictures by post or other means to a person who has not ordered them in advance; or 3. disseminates among children and young persons technical recordings which by reason of their content might have a brutalising effect or result in other serious danger to the young. The same applies in respect of penalties and special legal effects for a person who offends against provisions concerning the scrutiny and approval of films, video recordings or other technical recordings containing moving pictures which are intended for public showing. Provisions aimed at preventing the dissemination through technical recordings of maps, drawings or pictures which represent Sweden, either in whole or in part, and which contain information of significance for the defence of the Realm, may be laid down in law.
  • Article 13 provides the following: Copies of technical recordings produced in Sweden and intended for dissemination in this country shall be provided with clear information indicating who caused the recording to be made and where, when and by whom the copies were made. More detailed rules in this connection may be laid down in law. A person who produces a technical recording and thereby offends, through negligence or by deliberate intent, against paragraph one, or against rules referred to therein, shall be sentenced to pay a fine or to imprisonment for up to one year. A person who disseminates a technical recording which lacks, through negligence or by deliberate intent, any of the information prescribed in paragraph one shall be sentenced to pay a money fine. The same shall apply if such information is incorrect and this fact is known to the disseminator. A person who knowingly disseminates a technical recording after it has been impounded or confiscated under this Fundamental Law shall be sentenced to pay a fine or to imprisonment for up to one year.
  • Article 14 provides the following: Provisions concerning an obligation for a person who professionally purveys or hires out films, video recordings or other technical recordings containing moving pictures to notify this circumstance to a public authority for registration may be laid down in law or, where the content of such notification or the detailed procedure for lodging such notification is concerned, by virtue of law.

In relation to Preordered copies of recordings, written documents and pictures, Article 15 provides the following: The name of the database and information about when, where and how the recording, written document or picture was produced shall be apparent from such a technical recording, written document or picture under Chapter 1, Article 9, paragraph one, point 1. The person carrying on the activity shall ensure that the recording, written document or picture carries such information. More detailed rules concerning this matter may be laid down in law. 63 A person who, through negligence or by deliberate intent, offends against paragraph one, or against rules referred to therein, shall be sentenced to pay a fine or to imprisonment for up to one year. A person who, through negligence or by deliberate intent, supplies a technical recording, written document or picture under Chapter 1, Article 9, paragraph one, point 1, which lacks any of the information prescribed in paragraph one, shall be sentenced to pay a money fine. The same applies if such information is incorrect and this is known to the person supplying the recording, written document or picture.

Other Chapters of the Law are:

  • Chapter 1. Basic provisions
  • Chapter 2. On the right to anonymity
  • 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

Further Reading

Censorship: A World Encyclopedia, Derek Jones, 2001

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