This rewriting of the fundamental laws is terrifying. This is an unclear writing that few seem to understand. We don’t notice how dangerous it is when freedom of expression is restricted until it’s too late.
– Emanuel Karlsten
A new crime has been written into two of the four fundamental laws of Sweden, in regards to freedom of the press and freedom of expression.
The rewriting makes it a crime to talk about and publish things that could damage Sweden’s security, or Sweden’s relationship with other countries and organizations or Sweden’s reputation.
Sweden has had freedom of the press and expression written into their fundamental laws for over 250 years.
Now, censorship has reared its head under the guise of “national security”.
The new laws include not only information about other countries, but also organizations within Sweden’s international cooperation.
It is now considered a crime of foreign espionage to say things that could damage Sweden’s relationship with other countries or international organizations, such as NATO or the WHO.
On Wednesday, a new constitutional amendment was voted through. The meaning of this is that in Sweden there will now be room to penalize traditional journalistic reporting – if this can be considered “damaging relations with countries or international organizations Sweden cooperates with”.
First came the FRA law, but you were silent, because you had clean flour in the bag.
Then came the Copyright Directive, but you were silent, because it was so incredibly complicated and people should have paid, right?
Then came the fundamental law amendment for whistleblowers, but you were silent because… Yes, you have always been silent and was it really that dangerous?
Prime Minister Löfven issued a bill in 2021 to make it a crime to tell about other countries’ crimes, at least if Sweden has a collaboration with them.
The Riksdag (Parliament) approved the bill in April, but since the law was a fundamental law, a general election needed to be held and a new Riksdag had to vote on the same bill again.
Now, on Wednesday, November 16, just after 4 p.m., the hammer fell:
The Riksdag finally changes the freedom of expression fundamentals.
The process for changing fundamental laws in Sweden requires the Riksdag (Parliament) to vote twice, and there must be a parliamentary election between the votes.
On April 6, 2022, the Riksdag made its first decision. The previous Riksdag voted yes to this amendment before the most recent Parliamentary elections. The Riksdag election took place on September 11, 2022 and on November 16, 2022 the newly elected Riksdag voted for the second time.
On November 16, 2022, the Sweden’s Riksdag adopted a constitutional amendment by a vote of 270–37 (there are 349 parlamentarians in the Swedish Riksdag). The Green Party was in favor of the change in the first vote (the green party was then taking part in the Swedish government), but now they voted no. Only the Left Party has been against the proposal all along.
On January 1, 2023, the amendment to the constitution will enter into force. It will then become criminal to reveal things about intergovernmental organizations and states Sweden cooperates with.
This can make people who are important sources for investigative journalism not dare to raise the alarm.
The journalist Robert Aschberg is against the change. He is chairman of the publicist club, which works with freedom of expression and the media. He says the amendment could make it illegal to disclose abuse and crimes.
Abuses of various kinds, violations of human rights, corruption, child trafficking, torture and the like that have been committed by, for example, commanders in international operations. The kind they want to obscure. It may be illegal to disclose in Sweden.
It is also a fact that if the law had existed ten years ago, UN official Anders Kompass’s alarm about the abuse of children by French soldiers could have been considered criminal.
It is scary to imagine the consequences of the law. We are in the middle of negotiations with Turkey, whose president wants Sweden to extradite the journalist Bülent Kenes, who lives in exile in Sweden. Erdogan demanded it during an open press conference and Ulf Kristersson stood next to him and took notes. The disclosure has nothing to do with the law, but the journalist does. Because it is precisely after telling about things that harm the country that he lives in exile in Sweden. It is because Sweden holds freedom of speech so highly that he can live in exile here.
Journalism is – in its innermost and most beautiful essence – the valve of democracy. It is a third state power that should keep the first two state powers, government and parliament, in check by telling the public what is true and relevant. It is these free and open publications that help voters sift through politicians and parties, vote for those who represent us best. Our fragile democracy is totally dependent on this kind of openness – cross! – because stale abuse of power has difficulty growing in such conditions.
The controversial bill “Prop. 2021/22:55 Foreign espionage” was voted through by the Riksdag on Wednesday, which means an amendment to two of Sweden’s fundamental laws and a severe erosion of press freedom in the country. The purpose of the new law is to prohibit “unauthorized disclosure of secret information that occurs within Sweden’s international collaborations and that may damage Sweden’s relationship with another state or international organization”, something that Nya Dagbladet previously reported on.
In practice, the law means a severe restriction of the Basic Law on Freedom of Expression and the Freedom of the Press Ordinance, which means that certain journalistic reviews are simply prohibited in Sweden. The bill has met with enormous criticism, not least from the Association of Journalists, but also from media companies such as SVT who believe that the law threatens democracy and freedom of expression.
SvD’s Mattias Svensson writes that today’s vote has been preceded by a pitiful performance from the governing parties and SD. He regrets that no members of the four parties have answered journalists’ questions.
“That’s not how you lead the country. That way you don’t take responsibility for heavy decisions. This is how you sow mistrust and suspicion towards the government and the Riksdag, as well as towards the bill in question.”
According to Svensson, there is much evidence that the bill is “miscalibrated and too far-reaching” which not only restricts our freedom, but also “increases the insecurity and vulnerability of both the country and its inhabitants”.
This is very familiar to the excuse used in the United Kingdom to deny freedom of information requests. See my previous article:
Foreign espionage becomes a crime of freedom of press and expression
The Riksdag has voted yes to a rewriting of two Swedish fundamental laws
Emanuel Karlsten: The rewriting of two Swedish fundamental laws is terrifying
NEW ESPIONAGE ACT: Leader: Pathetic behavior of the governing parties and SD
The Riksdag voted through criticized restrictions on press freedom
by James Roguski
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