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 4th of November 1980 in France. 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.
Sweden adopted its first Freedom of the Press Act already in 1766, becoming a forerunner in the domain of freedom of expression and access to information. The Swedish Constitution is the corpus of four laws regulating the functioning of the State and defining the relations between its powers. Two of these fundamental laws directly regard freedom of the media: (the Freedom of the Press Act and the Fundamental Law on Freedom of Expression) while another one has provisions about it.
The Fundamental Rights and Freedom Law (Regeringsformen)
The Chapter 2 of the law protects personal freedom of expression “whether orally, pictorially, in writing, or in any other way”.
The Freedom of the Press Act (Tryckfrihetsförordningen)
The current version of the Freedom of the Press Act derives from the original act of 1766. It underwent several changes, the last in 2003. The main objective of the Act is to allow everyone to gain access to official documents, may it be texts, pictures, audio recordings, videos or whatever other format. The request can also be anonymous and the access can be restricted only for some reasons that are specifically listed in the act.
The Act contains provisions about libel, affront or insult. The Chapter 7, Article 4 names defamation and affront among the “acts that shall be regarded as offenses against the freedom of the press if they are committed by way of printed matter and if they are punishable under law”.
The Chapter 3 of the Act provides for protection of journalists’ sources. Sources have the right to stay anonymous and journalists revealing their identity without a specific consent can be guilty of criminal offense. The Act actively forbids journalists to reveal confidential sources, stating that sources’ identity can be revealed only in circumstances where it is indispensable, such as in threats to national security.
The Fundamental Law on Freedom of Expression (Yttrandefrihetsgrundlagen)
Another provision directly regarding the media in Sweden is the Fundamental Law on Freedom of Expression . The Law guarantees to every citizen
“the right to publicly express his or her thoughts, opinions and sentiments, and in general to communicate information on any subject whatsoever on sound radio, television and certain similar transmissions, through public playback of material from a database, and in films, video recordings, sound recordings and other technical recordings”.
Defamation in Sweden is regulated under Chapter 7 of the Freedom of the Press Act but also under Chapter 5 of the Swedish Penal Code (pdf file here). According to Section 1 and Section 2 of the Code, defamation can be punished with a fine and in particularly serious cases also with imprisonment.
The Radio and Television Act, which entered in force in August 2010, contains provisions about television broadcasts, on-demand TV, Teletext and radio broadcasts. According to the Act:
“a media service provider shall ensure that the overall media services reflect the fundamental concepts of a democratic society, the principle that all persons are of equal value, and the freedom and dignity of the individual”.
A specific authority, the Broadcasting Commission, monitors whether broadcast programmes conform to the principles contained in the Act.
The Personal Data Act came into force in October 1998 and it’s based on Directive 95/46/EC preventing violations of personal integrity in the processing of personal data. Information can still be obtained with the concerned person’s consent. Furthermore, section 21 of the Act states that it is prohibited for others than public authorities to process personal data related to legal offences involving crime, judgments in criminal cases, coercive penal procedural measures or administrative deprivation of liberty.