Defamation Laws In Sweden

The criminal offense of defamation is regulated by Chapter 5 of the Swedish Penal Code.  Article 1 of Chapter 5 defines defamation where a person is pointed out as someone being a criminal, or as having a reprehensible way of living or otherwise furnishes information intended to cause exposure to the disrespect of others.  The following may constitute as defenses for the crime of defamation:

1)    If the defendant is duty bound to express himself;

2)    The matters alleged as defamatory is true;

Punishment for defamation under Chapter 5 of the Swedish Penal Code may constitute imprisonment ranging from six (6) months to two (2) years.

The Statute of Limitations governing criminal actions for defamation is prescribed under Chapter 35 (Section 1) of the Swedish Penal Code.

Kirtley (2003) pronounced that Sweden is one of the countries where criminal defamation laws are almost never invoked against the press.

However, let it be noted that as of February 24, 2012, the Swedish Svea Court of Appeals upheld a District Court’s Decision ordering Asian Tribune Editor KT Rajasingham and the World Institute for Asian Studies to pay Norway journalist Nadarajah Sethurupan SEK 125,000 (or about USD 20,000) plus interest from 2 November 2005.  Such amount is considered the highest court sentence for defamation in Swedish history.

The defamation case stemmed from the incident as reported by Nadarajah Sethurupan as follows:   “When I was in Oslo 2003/2004,  Mr.KT. Rajasingahm called me and asked me to work with his secret network to attack Norwegian peace process in Sri Lanka, He asked me to write against to Norwegian Official and SLMM and their peace effort in Sri Lanka. He asked me to work together with him and his hidden unit to attack Norwegian involvement in Sri Lanka. I refused all that then he and his hidden group branded me as a “terrorist” and started attacking me on media as a member of LTTE from 2005 till 2008.”

Another case is Carina Herrstedt, Vice-Chairperson of the Sweden Democrats As of October 13, 2010, Ms. Herrstedt was ordered by the court to pay 5,000 kronor ($753) to Jan Jönsson, the former chairperson of the Communist Party of Sweden (SKP), for claims published on her blog that Mr.  Jönsson had said that handicapped people had no right to exist and would be the “first target group for extermination camps that he would like to establish”.

Although criminal defamation is being implemented in Sweden, the amount of damages awarded to victims may not be as high as you would expect from other countries.