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Swedish national library reported for child porn

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Swedish national library reported for child porn
12:49 CEST+02:00
The Swedish national library will on Monday afternoon be reported to the police for the possession and distribution of child pornography.

The police report will be made by two Swedish child protection groups, Hand i Hand (literally: hand in hand) and the Föreningen Anhöriga Till Sexuellt Utnyttjade Barn (ATSUB - The Association of Relatives to Sexually-abused Children).

Birgitta Holmberg at ATSUB told The Local on Monday that the purpose of the police report is two-fold.

Firstly to put a stop to the distribution of the National Library's collection of child pornography, and secondly to expose how much of the library's collection has been copied.

"We want the report to demonstrate that the same laws apply for all regardless of whether it is a state institution," Holmberg said.

The existence of the National Library's collection of child pornography emerged after a visit by the writer Valentin Bart in November 2008.

Bart, who spent a year working in a pornographic book shop in central Stockholm in the 1970s, told The Local that he wanted to see if the law which requires the library to archive a copy of everything printed in Sweden, also applied to child pornography.

He found that not only did the library hold large quantities of pornography, featuring children as young as 10-years-old, but access to the material was straightforward.

"All I did was sign up to check out books and send a letter explaining my reasons for wanting to view the material. Anyone could have done the same thing," Bart told The Local.

The large collection at the library was built up in the years between 1971, when the possession, distribution and display of child pornography was legalized in Sweden, and 1980, when the law was repealed.

Until Valentin Bart's November visit brought the issue to the library's attention, the material had remained easily accessible to the general public.

The library has since launched an internal review of its guidelines for lending sensitive material.

"We are not happy with the library's reaction. Every picture that is distributed is a new violation against the abused child," said Birgitta Holmberg to The Local.

"Is it really possible to conduct an internal investigation into this. This matter requires open debate and a legal process. Should a state institution retain child pornography in breach of the law?" Bart queried on Monday.

Both Holmberg and Bart argue that there could be grounds for allowing the collection of the material for research purposes.

"But then we want strict licensing and control of researchers," Holmberg said.

"One can also say, that we all know what a child's body looks like naked and we all know what sex is. Do we really need to view the pictures to learn about this," Holmberg added.

Valentin Bart also pointed out the sensitive issue of the National Library - which is called 'Kungliga Biblioteket' or 'Royal Library' in Swedish - holding material that directly challenges the work of ECPAT - an international charity working against the exploitation of children, and whose patron is Queen Silvia.

The Local contacted Sara Bengtzon at the National Library on Monday and informed her of the police report that will be submitted later today.

"I think that the relative support groups have to do what they think is right."

"Our internal inquiry into this issue will be completed in May and a police investigation into the issue will only help this process in trying to straighten out the guidelines and map out the situation."

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