Freedom of the Press Court Cases

Freedom of the Press Court Cases in Europe

Freedom of the Press Court Cases in Sweden

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 includes court proceedings in freedom of the press cases, 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 lwas formed the Constitution of Sweden.

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 12 of the Freedom of the Press Act has the heading “On court proceedings in freedom of the press cases”. Here are the content of Chapter 12:

  • Article 1 provides the following: Freedom of the press cases are heard by the district court within whose jurisdiction the county administration has its seat. Should any reason prompt the designation of another district court within the county administrative district to hear freedom of the press cases, the Government may adopt a statutory instrument to this effect. Freedom of the press cases are cases concerning liability under penal law or private claims for damages on account of offences against the freedom of the press, and application cases under Chapter 9, Article 5. Freedom of the press cases also include cases concerning liability under penal law and private claims for damages in relation to offences under Chapter 7, Article 3. If the case concerns an offence under paragraph two of the last-named Article, and if the person who procured the information or intelligence has not published it in printed matter or communicated it to some other person 51 for the purpose of such publication, the case shall however be tried as a freedom of the press case only provided it is manifest that the information was procured for the purpose of publication in printed matter.
  • Article 2 provides the following: In freedom of the press cases in which there is a question of liability under penal law, the question of whether an offence has been committed shall be tried by a jury of nine members, unless both parties have declared themselves willing to refer the case for decision by the court, without trial by jury. The question of whether the defendant is liable for the printed matter under Chapter 8 is however always tried by the court sitting alone. When the question of whether an offence has been committed is tried by a jury, the answer shall be deemed to be in the affirmative if at least six members of the jury concur in that opinion. If the jury finds that no offence has been committed, the defendant shall be acquitted. If the jury has found that an offence has been committed, the question shall be examined also by the court. If the opinion of the court differs from that of the jury, the court is entitled to acquit the defendant or apply a penal provision carrying a milder sanction than that applied by the jury. A superior court to which the judgment of a district court has been referred on appeal is no more entitled than the district court to overturn the jury’s verdict.
  • Article 3 provides the following: Jurors shall be appointed for each county administrative district, and are divided into two groups, with 16 jurors in the first group and 8 in the second. In the case of the Stockholm county administrative district, the first group shall however consist of 24 jurors and the second of 12. The jurors in the second group shall hold currently, or shall have held previously, appointments as lay assessors of a court of general jurisdiction or a public administrative court.
  • Article 4 provides the following: Jurors are appointed, by election, for a period of four calendar years. Jurors shall be elected by the county council of the county administrative district or, where the county administrative district includes a municipality which does not come under the county council, by the county council and the council of the municipality concerned. Jurors in the Gotland county administrative district are elected by the Gotland municipal council. If, under the foregoing, jurors shall be elected by more than one electoral body, the county administrative board shall apportion the number of jurors in each group among the electoral bodies in proportion to population. When a juror is to be elected it is incumbent upon the district court to notify to this effect the authority responsible for arranging the election.
  • Article 5 provides the following: Jurors shall be appointed from among Swedish citizens domiciled in the county administrative district for which they are to be appointed. They should be known for their soundness of judgment, independence and fairmindedness. Different social groups and currents of opinion, and different parts of the county administrative district, should be represented among the jurors. No person who is a minor or for whom an administrator has been appointed under special provisions of law may be a juror.
  • Article 6 provides the following: A juror who has attained the age of sixty has the right to resign his appointment. If in any other circumstances a juror wishes to retire, the district court considers whether valid cause exists to prevent him from carrying out his duties. If a juror ceases to be eligible for election, the appointment lapses.
  • Article 7 provides the following: If a juror retires or ceases to be eligible for election, the electoral body shall appoint another person from among the group of jurors to which he belonged to replace him for the remainder of the electoral period. Such a juror may be elected by the county council executive committee in place of the county council: such an election is however valid only until the county council next meets.
  • Article 8 provides the following: Appeals concerning the election of a juror shall be lodged with the district court. The court examines the qualifications of those elected even if no appeal is lodged. Provisions of law relating to the prosecution of appeals against decisions of an inferior court apply to the prosecution of appeals against decisions of a district court on a matter under paragraph one. There is no right of appeal against the decision of the appeal court. If an appeal is lodged, the election nevertheless remains valid unless the court rules otherwise.
  • Article 9 provides the following: The names of persons appointed to serve as jurors shall be entered on a list of jurors. Each group shall be entered separately on this list. (see more about the Constitution of Sweden here)
  • Article 10 provides the following: In a case which is to be tried by a jury, the court shall present the list of jurors and consider whether there are grounds for disqualifying any person on the list. Provisions of law relating to the disqualification of judges apply to the disqualification of jurors. The jury is empanelled thereafter from among the undisqualified jurors in such a way that each party is permitted to exclude three jurors in the first group and one in the second, and the court then selects by lot a sufficient number of deputies from among the remaining jurors to leave six in the first group and three in the second. In the case of a jury in the Stockholm county administrative district, each party is permitted to exclude five jurors in the first group and two in the second.
  • Article 11 provides the following: If there are several parties on one side, only one of whom wishes to exercise his right to exclude jurors, an exclusion made by that party is deemed to be an exclusion made also by the other parties. If co-parties wish to exclude different jurors, and are unable to reach agreement, the court makes the exclusion by lot.
  • Article 12 provides the following: No person may avoid jury service without legal cause. If the number of members required in a group cannot be made up because of disqualification or legal excuse, the court nominates three qualified group-members for each juror required. Each party is permitted to exclude one of the persons so nominated. No one may be nominated as a juror who has already been excluded in the same proceedings.
  • Article 13 provides the following: If several cases in which a jury is to act are being heard concurrently, the court may rule, after conferring with the parties, that the same jury shall act in all the cases. If a jury is to be empanelled jointly for two or more cases, the provisions of Article 11 concerning the exclusion of jurors in a case in which there is more than one party on one side apply in like manner.
  • Article 14 provides the following: If, in proceedings concerning liability under penal law, an action for damages is brought against a person other than the defendant, the measures which fall under Article 2, paragraph one, Article 10, paragraph two, and Article 12, paragraph two, to be taken by a respondent devolve upon the defendant. If an action is brought which is not connected with criminal proceedings but concerns confiscation of printed matter or a private claim for damages, the provisions of Articles 2 and 10 to 13 apply 53 concerning court proceedings in the case; if, however, the question of whether an offence has been committed has already been examined in a freedom of the press case concerning liability under penal law, the same question shall not be re-examined. In an application case, the exclusion of jurors, which otherwise falls to the parties in the case, is effected by the court by lot.
  • Article 15 provides the following: More detailed provisions regarding court proceedings in freedom of the press cases are laid down in law. Where there are several district courts in one county administrative district which are competent to hear freedom of the press cases, the duties specified in Articles 4, 6, 8 and 9 shall be carried out by the district court designated by the Government.
  • Article 16 provides the following: For cases in which the country is at war or exposed to the danger of war, or such exceptional conditions prevail as result from the war or danger of war to which the country has been exposed, provisions may be laid down in an act of law or in a statutory instrument adopted by the Government, with authority in law, concerning the postponement of elections of jurors or exceptions from the right of a juror to resign his appointment.

Other Chapters covered by 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 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 10: On special coercive measures
  • Chapter 11: On private claims for damages
  • Chapter 13: On matter printed abroad etc.
  • Chapter 14: General provisions

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