UD and Säpo cleared over website closure

Neither the Foreign Office (UD) nor the security police (Säpo) broke censorship laws when Sverigedemokraterna's website was shut down for publishing the contraversial Muhammad cartoons.

But the Chancellor of Justice appears to have questioned UD’s actions. Chancellor Göran Lambertz sees no reason to criticise UD or Säpo concerning the events which led to the closing down of Sverigedemokraterna’s website. No public servant contravened the constitution regarding freedom of speech.

Lambertz writes in his decision that he “has no reason to question” the sequence of events which UD described in its statements to the Chancellor.

The UD claims that there was absolutely no attempt to influence the web hotel to close the website.

On the contrary, the importance of respecting freedom of speech had been emphasised by Stefan Amér, UD’s political advisor.

Säpo officials involved in the case were also exonerated of breaking censorship laws. The Chancellor of Justice also commented that Säpo had acted in line with their remit and level of responsibility.

The appropriateness of UD’s actions, however, is more difficult to judge, writes Lambertz. But since the role of cabinet ministers in the affair is to be scrutinised by the parliamentary constitutional committee, and not by the Chancellor of Justice, Lambertz does not reveal his views on the subject.

Government authorities must in every meaningful way refrain from attempts to influence the editorial decisions of media protected by the provisions of the constitution. “Such attempts may only be made if there are very strong reasons,” writes Lambertz. Legitimate reasons can be risk to human life or extraordinarily large sums of money, he writes, and not even then can such pressure be applied which amounts to preventing publication.

UD civil servant, Stefan Amér, acted following discussions with foreign secretary, Laila Freivalds, and is therefore beyond blame. Freivalds, who resigned over the affair on Tuesday, is considered responsible according to the Chancellor of Justice.

On 10th January this year, Sverigedemokraterna, one of Sweden’s extreme right wing parties, announced a competition in their newspaper SD-kuriren. The paper called for drawings showing what the prophet Muhammad looked like. The first drawing was published on 3rd February, at the height of the controversy surrounding the cartoons published by Jyllands-Posten in Denmark.

The same day, the web hotel Levonline closed the paper’s website after being contacted by UD and Säpo.