Offences in Europe
Offences against the freedom of the Press and Press Freedom 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 covers the offences against the freedom of the press, 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 7 of the Freedom of the Press Act has the heading “On the dissemination of printed matter”. Here are the content of Chapter 7:
Article 1 provides the following: For the purposes of this Act an offence against the freedom of the press is understood to mean an offence under Articles 4 and 5. (see more about the Constitution of Sweden here)
Article 2 provides the following: No statement in an advertisement or other like communication shall be deemed an offence against the freedom of the press if it is not readily apparent from the content of the communication that liability for such an offence may be incurred. If the communication is punishable under law, having regard also to circumstances which are not readily apparent from its content, the relevant provisions of law apply. The foregoing applies in like manner to a communication conveyed in cypher or by other means secret from the general public.
Article 3 provides the following: If a person communicates information under Chapter 1, Article 1, paragraph three, or if, without being responsible under the provisions of Chapter 8, he contributes to material intended for insertion in printed matter, as author or other originator or as editor, thereby rendering himself guilty of 1. high treason, espionage, gross espionage, gross unauthorised trafficking in secret information, insurrection, treason or betrayal of country, or any attempt, preparation or conspiracy to commit such an offence; 2. wrongful release of an official document to which the public does not have access, or release of such a document in contravention of a restriction imposed by a public authority at the time of its release, where the act is deliberate; or 3. deliberate disregard of a duty of confidentiality, in cases specified in a special act of law; provisions of law concerning liability for such an offence apply. 43 If a person procures information or intelligence for a purpose referred to in Chapter 1, Article 1, paragraph four, thereby rendering himself guilty of an offence under paragraph one, point 1 of this Article, provisions of law concerning liability for such an offence apply. The provisions of Chapter 2, Article 12, paragraph three of the Instrument of Government shall apply also in respect of proposals for provisions under paragraph one, point 3.
Article 4 provides the following: With due regard to the purpose of freedom of the press for all under Chapter 1, the following acts shall be deemed to be offences against the freedom of the press if committed by means of printed matter and if they are punishable under law: 1. high treason, committed with intent to bring the Realm or any part thereof under the subjection of a foreign power or render the Realm dependent on such a power by violent or other unlawful means or with foreign assistance, or to detach a part of the Realm by such means, or with foreign assistance to induce or prevent acts or decisions of the Head of State, the Government, the Riksdag, the Supreme Court or the Supreme Administrative Court, insofar as the act implies a risk that the intent will be realised; any attempt, preparation or conspiracy to commit such high treason; 2. instigation of war, insofar as a danger that the Realm will be drawn into war or other hostilities is provoked with foreign assistance; 3. espionage, whereby, in order to assist a foreign power, a person conveys, consigns or discloses without due authority information concerning defence installations, armaments, storage installations, import, export, mode of fabrication, negotiations, decisions or other circumstances the disclosure of which to a foreign power could cause detriment to the total defence system or otherwise to the security of the Realm, regardless of whether the information is correct; any attempt, preparation or conspiracy to commit such espionage; 4. unauthorised trafficking in secret information, whereby a person, with-out due authority but with no intent to assist a foreign power, conveys, consigns or discloses information concerning any circumstance of a secret nature, the disclosure of which to a foreign power could cause detriment to the defence of the Realm or the national supply of goods in the event of war or exceptional conditions resulting from war, or otherwise to the security of the Realm, regardless of whether the information is correct; any attempt or preparation aimed at such unauthorised trafficking in secret information; conspiracy to commit such an offence, if the offence is gross, having particular regard to whether the act involved assistance to a foreign power or was exceptionally dangerous having regard to an existing state of war, or concerned circumstances of major significance, or if the offender disclosed information entrusted to him in conjunction with public or private employment; 5. carelessness with secret information, whereby through gross negligence a person commits an act referred to in point 4; 6. insurrection, committed with intent to overthrow the form of government by force of arms or otherwise by violent means, or induce or prevent by such means acts or decisions of the Head of State, the Government, the Riksdag, the Supreme Court or the Supreme Administrative Court, insofar as the act implies a risk that the intent will be realised; any attempt, preparation or conspiracy to commit such insurrection; 7. treason or betrayal of country, insofar as a person thereby, when the Realm is at war or provisions of law relating to such offences otherwise apply, misleads or betrays persons active in the defence of the Realm or induces them to mutiny, break faith or lose heart, or betrays property of significance for the total defence system, or commits any other similar treasonable act which is liable to cause detriment to the total defence system or which involves assistance to the enemy; any attempt, preparation or conspiracy to commit such treason or betrayal of country; 8. carelessness injurious to the interests of the Realm, whereby a person through negligence commits an act referred to in point 7; 9. dissemination of rumours which endanger the security of the Realm, whereby, when the Realm is at war or provisions of law relating to such offences otherwise apply, a person spreads false rumours or other false statements liable to endanger the security of the Realm, or communicates or promotes the communication of such rumours or statements to a foreign power, or disseminates among members of the armed forces false rumours or other false statements liable to provoke disloyalty or to dishearten; 10. sedition, whereby a person exhorts or otherwise seeks to encourage criminal acts, neglect of civil obligations, disobedience to a public authority or neglect of duty incumbent upon a serving member of the armed forces; 11. agitation against a population group, whereby a person threatens or expresses contempt for a population group or other such group with allusion to race, colour, national or ethnic origin, religious faith or sexual orientation; 12. offences against civil liberty, whereby a person makes unlawful threats with intent to influence the formation of public opinion or encroach upon freedom of action within a political organisation or professional or industrial association, thereby imperilling the freedom of expression, freedom of assembly or freedom of association; any attempt to commit such an offence against civil liberty; 13. unlawful portrayal of violence, whereby a person portrays sexual violence or coercion in pictorial form with intent to disseminate the image, unless the act is justifiable having regard to the circumstances; 14. defamation, whereby a person alleges that another is criminal or blameworthy in his way of life, or otherwise communicates information liable to expose another to the contempt of others, and, if the person defamed is deceased, the act causes offence to his survivors, or might otherwise be considered to violate the sanctity of the grave except, however, in cases in which it is justifiable to communicate information in the matter, having regard to the circumstances, and proof is presented that the information was correct or there were reasonable grounds for the assertion; 15. insulting language or behaviour, whereby a person insults another by means of offensive invective or allegations or other insulting behaviour towards him; 16. unlawful threats, whereby a person threatens another with a criminal act, in a manner liable to engender in the person threatened serious fears for the safety of his person or property or that of another; 17. threats made against a public servant, whereby a person, threatening violence, attacks another in the exercise of his public authority, or any other activity accorded the same protection as is associated with the exercise of public authority, or as an accessory in an activity accorded such protection, for the purpose of coercing or preventing the other from taking action therein, or in retaliation for such action, or whereby a person thus attacks a person who was previously engaged in such activity or as an accessory therein, on account of his acts or omissions in this context; any attempt or preparation so to threaten a public servant, unless the offence, if realised, would have been deemed to be trifling; 18. perversion of the course of justice, whereby a person, threatening violence, attacks another because he has filed a complaint, brought charges, testified or otherwise made a statement under examination before a court of law or other public authority, or in order to deter him from such action, or whereby a person attacks another threatening action which would result in suffering, injury or nuisance, because he has testified or otherwise made a statement under examination before a public authority, or in order to prevent him from making such a statement.
Article 5 provides the following: Offences against the freedom of the press shall also include any act committed by means of printed matter and punishable under law whereby a person 1. deliberately publishes an official document to which the public does not have access, if he obtained access to the document in the public service, while carrying out official duties or in any other comparable circumstance; 2. publishes information, and thereby deliberately sets aside a duty of confidentiality under the special act of law referred to in Article 3, paragraph one, point 3; 3. publishes information, when the Realm is at war or exposed to the immediate danger of war, concerning facts the disclosure of which constitutes an offence against the security of the Realm other than an offence under Article 4.
Article 6 provides the following: Provisions of law relating to penal sanctions on account of offences under Articles 4 and 5 apply also in a case in which the offence is deemed to be an offence against the freedom of the press. Provisions concerning private claims on account of offences against the freedom of the press are laid down in Chapter 11. If the defendant is convicted of an offence specified in Article 4, point 14 or 15, and the printed matter is a periodical, an order may be issued, on request, for the verdict to be inserted in the periodical.
Article 7 provides the following: Printed matter containing an offence against the freedom of the press may be confiscated. Confiscation of printed matter means the destruction of all copies intended for dissemination and the taking of such action with respect to forms, lithographic stones, stereotypes, plates and other such material adapted exclusively to the printing of the matter as will render impossible their misuse.
Article 8 provides the following: In conjunction with the confiscation of a periodical, publication of the periodical may be prohibited in the case of an offence referred to in Article 4, points 1 to 3, point 4, insofar as the offence is to be regarded as gross, and points 6 and 7, for a particular period to be determined by the court, but not exceeding six months from the date on which the court’s ruling in the freedom of the press case acquired legal force. Such a ban may however be is-sued only when the country is at war. General provisions of law applying to forfeiture of objects on account of an offence apply to the confiscation of a periodical disseminated in violation of a ban on publication, or manifestly constituting a continuation of a periodical specified in such a ban.
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 6: On the dissemination of printed matter
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