• Sweden's news in English

Politicians' text messages 'public documents': Swedish court

TT/David Landes · 6 May 2009, 15:01

Published: 06 May 2009 15:01 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

According to the Administrative Court of Appeal (Kammarrätten) in Sundsvall in northern Sweden, mobile phone text messages should be considered documents vis a vis Sweden’s Press Freedom Act (Tryckfrihetsförordningen).

It also doesn’t matter whether or not the messages are sent to a politician’s private telephone or one issued to him by the public authority for which he or she works.

What matters in determining whether the text messages are considered public documents or not, according to the court, is the content of the messages themselves.

Messages relating to the activity of a public authority and which are created, or are accessible by, a public servant, should be considered as having been received by the agency, which is in turn responsible for archiving the communications.

In addition, said the court, such archived text message communications are also eligible for release to the public as stipulated by Sweden’s generous open records laws.

The rulings stems from a request made by the local TV4 affiliate to the municipal executive board in Umeå in northern Sweden.

The television station wanted the board to produce all of the text messages sent and received by municipal commissioner Lennart Holmlund between June and December 2008.

The board refused the request, and the case eventually ended up in court.

In arguing against releasing the communications, the Umeå executive board said that mobile phone text messages should be considered telephone conversations rather than documents. Moreover, its lawyers argued, the municipality doesn’t have the technical means to save text messages, and the messages in question may very well already be erased.

But the court dismissed the board’s line of reasoning, asserting as well that the board is now obliged to review every text message to see if it should be made confidential which do.

According to the Chancellor of Justice (Justitiekanslern – JK), which safeguard’s Sweden’s Press Freedom Act, the media used for communications is irrelevant when it comes to the question of whether a document should be considered public or not.

“Someone can write something in a chuck of liver pate and submit it as a public document,” said Chancellor of Justice lawyer Håkan Källgård to the TT news agency.

Story continues below…

TV4’s Umeå affiliate was originally interested in learning more about the extent to which mobile phones were used on the job by local public servants.

The case gained attention when the station asked for communications from municipal boards in Sundsvall, Umeå, and Luleå.

“We saw, among other things, that Holmlund sent 217 text messages from Thailand, and that made us curious,” said news director Peter Swanberg.

TT/David Landes (news@thelocal.se)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

10:17 May 7, 2009 by Britswedeguy
That's quite a contrast with the UK's Big Brother surveillance state where the government can freely access your email and phone records but almost everything an MP does is secret!
11:20 May 7, 2009 by dtes
good thing, i think everything they do should be monitored and viewable by the public.
Today's headlines
Facebook slammed for cutting Swedish breast cancer video
File photo of the landing page of the Swedish version of Facebook. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT

The social media giant removed a breast cancer awareness video because it deemed the images "offensive," according to the Swedish Cancer Society.

Pastor rapped for depicting rival as Nazi in church play
A different pastor. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT

The pastor allegedly found it funny.

In Pictures: Look inside this perfect Swedish island home
This modern Gotland home was designed and built by two Swedes. Photo: United Frog Studios/AB

Anna-Lena and Johan designed and built their home with tall beautiful windows, a smart heating system, and a separate section for their greyhounds.

Cannabis worth millions seized at Swedish port
A file photo of a Swedish police cannabis find not related to the story. Photo: Polisen

The 300kg haul was found by in a truck which drove off a ferry in Karlskrona.

Roll over Volvo: there’s a new Swedish car in town
Photo: Björn Olsson

Car developers in Gothenburg have given Volvo a new sibling.

Thaw trip: Swedish PM Löfven heads to Saudi Arabia
Margot Wallström was at the centre of the 2015 diplomatic crisis. She will not join the Prime Minister on his trip to Saudi Arabia. Photo: Adam Ihse/TT

There are fences that need mending.

Here's where it could snow in central Sweden this weekend
This shot of snow in western Sweden may not be as far away as you think. Photo: Johan Eklund/TT

...and it's still only October.

Fury at plans that 'threaten the IB's survival' in Sweden
The new rules are unfair, say Swedish IB pupils. Photo: Berit Roald/NTB scanpix/TT

A new system for converting the grades of International Baccalaureate students in Sweden will make it almost impossible for them to get into top Swedish universities, it has been claimed.

Education doesn’t always pay in Sweden: study
Nurses are paid less than a lot of non-college graduates. Photo: Bertil Ericsson/TT

Half of Swedish graduates would earn more in their lifetime if they instead started work straight after high school, a new study shows.

What's On in Sweden
Five ways to discover something new in Sweden this weekend
Frank Zappa's symphonic works will be performed in Malmö this weekend. Photo: Anonymous/AP

From a performance of Frank Zappa's unheralded orchestral work to an intriguing combination of circus and opera, Sweden has some unique events this weekend.

Sponsored Article
This is Malmö: Football capital of Sweden
Analysis & Opinion
Are we just going to let half the country die?
Sponsored Article
Where is the Swedish music industry heading?
Angry elk chases Swede up a lamp post
The Local Voices
'Alienation in Sweden feels better: I find myself a stranger among scores of aliens'
Blog updates

8 July

Editor’s blog, July 8th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hej readers, It has, as always, been a bizarre, serious and hilarious week in Sweden. You…" READ »


6 October

10 useful hjälpverb (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hej! I think the so-called “hjalpverb” (auxiliary verbs in English) are a good way to get…" READ »

Sponsored Article
7 reasons you should join Sweden's 'a-kassa'
People-watching: October 20th
Sponsored Article
Why you should 'grab a chair' on Stockholm's tech scene
The Local Voices
A layover at Qatar airport brought this Swedish-Kenyan couple together - now they're heading for marriage
Swede punches clown that scared his grandmother
Fans throw flares and enter pitch in Swedish football riot
Sponsored Article
Stockholm: creating solutions to global challenges
Could Swedish blood test solve 'Making a Murderer'?
Sponsored Article
Swedish for programmers: 'It changed my life'
Property of the week: Linnéstaden, Gothenburg
Swedish school to build gender neutral changing room
Sponsored Article
Top 7 tips to help you learn Swedish
People-watching: October 14th-16th
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Man in Sweden assaulted by clowns with broken bottle
Nobel Prize 2016: Literature
Sponsored Article
'There was no future for me in Turkey'
Watch the man who discovered Bob Dylan react to his Nobel Prize win
Sponsored Article
‘Extremism can't be defeated on the battlefield alone’
Record numbers emigrating from Sweden
Sponsored Article
Stockholm: creating solutions to global challenges
People-watching: October 12th
Sponsored Article
Why you should 'grab a chair' on Stockholm's tech scene
The Local Voices
'Swedish startups should embrace newcomers' talents - there's nothing to fear'
Sponsored Article
'There was no future for me in Turkey'
How far right are the Sweden Democrats?
Sponsored Article
Where is the Swedish music industry heading?
Property of the week: Triangeln, Malmö
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Sweden unveils Europe's first elk hut
People-watching: October 7th-9th
The Local Voices
Syria's White Helmets: The Nobel Peace Prize would have meant a lot, but pulling a child from rubble is the greatest reward
Missing rune stone turns up in Sweden
Nobel Prize 2016: Chemistry
People-watching: October 5th
Must-watch: Incredible time-lapse video of Northern Lights in Sweden
The Local Voices
Why this Russian developer is committed to helping refugees - with tech
jobs available