Surveillance protesters gather outside Riksdag

Protesters assembled outside the Riksdag on Wednesday morning to voice their dissatisfaction with a proposed new surveillance law, a revised version of which is expected to be completed later in the afternoon or evening.

Surveillance protesters gather outside Riksdag

Defence Minister Sten Tolgfors is believed to have hammered out a compromise with internal critics of the bill after Tuesday evening’s emotional parliamentary debate.

Amendments to the bill would strengthen its civil liberty protections, said the minister at a hastily convened press conference on Tuesday evening.

But while the coalition partners now seem certain to vote the bill into law, critics of the signal surveillance law are not convinced by the last minute alterations. The law would enable Sweden’s National Defence Radio Establishment (Försvarets Radioanstalt – FRA) to monitor all outgoing and incoming communications crossing Sweden’s borders.

A group of protesters including journalists and bloggers began gathering outside the parliament building early on Wednesday morning. Parliamentarians arriving at their place of work were greeted with placards bearing messages such as ‘Block the FRA law’ and ‘FRA threatens your civil liberties’.

Agneta Lindblom Hulthén, chairwoman of the Swedish Union of Journalists (Journalistförbundet), said all privacy safeguards would vanish with the new law.

“There is a limit to what a democracy can do to protect democracy without itself becoming undemocratic,” she told news agency TT.

Hulthén added that as a journalist she was most concerned about a source’s right to anonymity.

“The compromise proposal does nothing to protect sources or source anonymity,” she said.

Parliament is expected to return the bill to the parliamentary defence committee on Wednesday morning.

Since a majority in the committee agreed on Tuesday evening to support the compromise proposal, parliament is likely to be presented with a revised version as early as Wednesday afternoon or evening.