List of Relevant Laws Impacting Free Speech (Sweden) (2015-2022)
Privacy related restrictions
In 2018 unlawful breach of privacy was criminalized. It is now a crime to violate someone else’s private life by spreading images or other information in a way that is intended to cause tangible harm to the person who is the subject of the information. Chapter 4, Article 6 c Criminal Code. Legislative history.
In 2019 and 2020 it was criminalized to take photographs in, or into, a court room and to disseminate any such pictures. Chapter 5, Article 9 b and Chapter 9, Article 5 a Code of Judicial Procedure. Legislative history 2019 and 2020.
In 2019 the scope of criminal responsibility for agitation against a national or ethnic group was widened, so as to include transgender persons as one of the groups protected by the criminalization. The criminalization required amendments to the Freedom of the Press Act. Chapter 16, Article 8 Criminal Code. Chapter 7, Article 6 Freedom of the Press Act. Legislative history.
Terrorism related restrictions
In 2018 the criminalization regarding receiving training for terrorism was expanded, by deleting the criteria that the training had to be particularly designed to further terrorist activities. According to critics, this could mean that even university education can be labelled as training for terrorism (if undertaken with the requisite intent). Legislative history.
In 2019 it was made criminal to affiliate with terrorist organizations in certain enumerated ways, and to publicly advocate for affiliation with terrorist organizations. The criminalization was criticized by the Council on Legislation for potential lack of compliance with Article 10 ECHR. Legislative history.
In 2023 it was made criminal to participate in a terrorist organization and to publicly advocate for participation in terrorist organizations. The criminalization was criticized by the Council on Legislation for not maintaining a clear distinction between legitimate journalistic activities and criminal participation in terrorist organizations. Legislative history.
The legislative changes can be found in the recently (2022) adopted Terrorist Offences Act.
In order to adopt the criminalization on participating in a terrorist organization, it was necessary to amend the Swedish constitutional law the Instrument of Government, making it possible to restrict the freedom of association with respect to associations that are engaged in or support terrorism. Chapter 2 Article 24 Instrument of Government. Legislative history.
Regulation (EU) 2021/784 on addressing the dissemination of terrorist content online entered into force in 2022. The regulation provides that all member states should ensure that competent authorities are able to issue removal orders requiring hosting service providers (e.g. large platforms such as Facebook) to remove terrorist content at the latest within one hour of receipt of the removal order. As of 2023, the failure of hosting service providers to follow a removal order from the Police Authority, can lead to administrative fines. See Act Supplementing the EU Regulation on Dissemination of Terrorist Content Online (not yet promulgated). Legislative history.
National Security related Restrictions
In 2019 regulations were introduced, making it possible to deny the grant and transfer of allocation of radio frequencies if the buyer’s radio use can be assumed to harm Swedish security interests. Under the same circumstances a granted license can be revoked. Chapter 3, Articles 6 and 23, and Chapter 7, Article 6 Law on Electronic Communications. Legislative history.
Furthermore, the Government is currently investigating the possibility to deny and revoke licenses to transmit radio and television programs, if the transmissions can be assumed to harm Swedish security. Government Remit 2022:81 and 2023:39.
In 2023 the criminal act of espionage was expanded to include acts that can affect Sweden’s international relations, so called foreign espionage – previously only acts that could harm Swedish security were criminalized. The criminalization of foreign espionage required amendments of the Swedish constitutional media laws (the Freedom of the Press Act and the Fundamental Law on Freedom of Expression). The introduction of the criminal act of foreign espionage has spurred a heated debate and has been heavily criticized by media organizations, who fear that the legislation will criminalize whistleblowers and media reports on issues of public interest. The most central legal provisions relating to the criminalization of foreign espionage can be found in Chapter 19 Articles 6 a and 7 Criminal Code, Chapter 7 Articles 14 a, 15 and 22 Freedom of the Press Act and Chapter 5 Article 4 Fundamental Law on Freedom of Expression. Legal History.
As a result of an infringement procedure against Sweden launched by the European Commission, based on Sweden’s transposition of the EU’s Council Framework Decision on combating racism, an all-party committee of inquiry has drafted legislative proposals, introducing criminal responsibility for publicly condoning, denying or grossly trivialising genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes (under certain circumstances). The committee’s proposals will now be subject to a public consultation. Government Report (SOU) 2023:17.
During the Covid-19 pandemic a range of temporary measures were enacted with the aim of stopping the spread of the virus. In particular, Sweden imposed restrictions on the freedom of assembly. These rules were amended frequently and at the height of the pandemic the freedom to hold demonstrations was in effect limited to a bare minimum. The temporary restrictions due to the pandemic were repealed in February 2022. Coronavirus Commission Report (SOU 2021:89).