Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948)
Within the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the General Assembly of the United Nations proclaimed the:
Right to freedom of opinion and expression: Article 19 Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966)
The resolution 2200A (XXI) of 16 December 1966 adopted by the General Assembly came into force on the 10th of September 1978. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states:
1. Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference.
2. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.
3. The exercise of the rights provided for in paragraph 2 of this article carries with it special duties and responsibilities. It may therefore be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary:
(a) For respect of the rights or reputations of others;
(b) For the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals.
1. Any propaganda for war shall be prohibited by law.
2. Any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law.
Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms
Section 1:Rights and Freedoms
1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.
2. The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.
Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union
Title II: Freedoms
1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers.
2. The freedom and pluralism of the media shall be respected.
Under part eight, Citizens Rights, of the Danish Constitutional Act, freedom of expression is guaranteed and censorship is prohibited.
Anyone is entitled to publish his or her ideas in print, in writing and orally, subject to the authority of the Courts. Censorship and other preventive measures can never be reintroduced.
The Media Liability Act is a central piece of media legislation. It applies to all publishers of periodical publications (magazines and newspapers) and to radio and television broadcasters authorized in Denmark to broadcast radio or television. Key points of the act are the designation of responsibility for content on media professionals themselves, the legal right to protect sources and the establishment of a Press Council under Part 7: “Press Council shall be established comprising a chairman and a vice-chairman and six other members to be appointed by the Minister of Justice”. In terms of online media, the provisions do not apply automatically as they do for the other sectors and the specific outlet needs to go through registration with the Press Council for the Act to apply.
In terms of access to information, the Access to Public Administration Files Act (1985) guarantees that: “…any person may demand that he be apprised of documents received or issued by an administration authority in the course of its activity. An administration authority may allow wider access to documents save where this Is not allowed under the rules on secrecy etc.”(section 4.1). The Act on the re-use of public information, for its part, aims to establish a minimum, uniform, set of rules for the commercial and non-commercial re-use of documents and data collections held by public sector bodies.
The Act on the Processing of Personal Data in article 2(2) gives specific mention to safeguarding freedom of expression: This Act shall not apply where this will be in violation of the freedom of information and expression, cf. Article 10 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. Therefore, it is not only specific legislation such as the Media Liability Act which works to defend the rights enshrined in the constitutional act.
In this line, the Penal Code must be mentioned which in section 118 protects the right to freedom of expression through penalizing (imprisonment up to 12 years) attempts to “[...] influence public affairs, or cause disruption of social order”. But also the code states that “the same penalty shall apply to any person who [...] gravely impairs freedom of speech or prevents any society or any other association from freely exercising its lawful activities.
For the broadcasting sector, there is the Radio and Television Broadcasting Act whose provisions detail the right to provide television and radio services in Denmark including organizational matters, advertising and so forth. When it was first introduced in 1973 it made a step towards liberalizing the provision of these services and has been updated several times in areas such as political advertising and to correspond to commitments adopted regionally such as in 2009 with the inclusion of provisions from the EU’s Audio-Visual Media Services Directive.
Moreover, a specific mechanism remains the media agreements of Parliament for broadcasting and electronic media; each four year cycle, different parties in Parliament conclude a media agreement which then regulates the sector on issues such as content requirements for public service broadcasting. The latest agreement was concluded in 2010 for the period 2011-2014.