Press Supervision in Europe
Press Supervision and Prosecution in the Swedish Constitution
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 Press Supervision and Prosecution, 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.
Chapter 9 of the Freedom of the Press Act has the heading “On the supervision and prosecution”. Here are the content of Chapter 9:
- Article 1 provides the following: The Chancellor of Justice shall take heed that the limits set in this Act for the freedom of the press are not transgressed. (see more about the Constitution of Sweden here)
- Article 2 provides the following: The Chancellor of Justice is sole prosecutor in cases concerning of-fences against the freedom of the press. No one other than the Chancellor of Justice may institute prejudicial inquiries concerning offences against the freedom of the press. Only the Chancellor of Justice and the court of law may approve coercive measures on suspicion that such an offence has been committed, unless otherwise provided in this Act. The Government has the right to report printed matter to the Chancellor of Justice for prosecution on account of an offence against the freedom of the press. It may be laid down in an act of law that public criminal proceedings on account of an offence against the freedom of the press may be instituted only with the Government’s consent. The Chancellor of Justice is likewise sole prosecutor in freedom of the press cases which are not cases concerning offences against the freedom of the press, and in cases otherwise relating to violations of regulations contained in this Act: provisions of law however regulate the right of the Parliamentary Ombudsman to act as prosecutor in cases of this nature.
- Article 3 provides the following: Public criminal proceedings on account of an offence against the freedom of the press shall be instituted, in the case of a periodical for which a valid certificate of no legal impediment to publication existed at the time of publication, within six months, and in the case of other printed matter, within one year from the date of publication, with effect that the matter shall otherwise be exempt from such proceedings. This provision notwithstanding, if such proceedings have been instituted within the time specified, fresh proceedings may nevertheless be instituted against another person who is liable in respect of the offence. 48 Provisions of law governing the period within which an offence must be prosecuted if penal sanctions are not to lapse apply also with respect to offences against the freedom of the press.
- Article 4 provides the following: Provisions of law govern the right of a private plaintiff to report an offence against the freedom of the press or bring charges on account of such an offence. (see more about the Constitution of Sweden here)
- Article 5 provides the following: If no one is liable under Chapter 8 for the offence, or if no summons can be served within the Realm on the person liable, the prosecutor or the plaintiff may apply to have the printed matter confiscated instead of instituting criminal proceedings.
More 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 7: On offences against the freedom of the press
- Chapter 8: Liability rules
- 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