The ruling is the first of its kind in Sweden and has sparked a heated debate over children’s rights and censorship.
The translator at the centre of the case was found guilty of possessing child pornography after downloading the offending manga images from the internet. He told the court that he had retrieved the 51 pictures in order to stay up to date with the latest developments in the Japanese comic genre.
Judge Nils Pålbrant conceded that the decision to fine the translator, though unanimous, had raised a number of thorny issues.
“There’s a clear conflict between freedom of speech on the one hand and general regulations regarding children’s rights on the other,” he told local newspaper Upsala Nya Tidning.
“It was however our view that the protective aspect weighed more heavily when taking into account the intentions of the legislator. The aim of the law, as described in the preliminary work that led to its creation, is not just to protect individual children but children in general.”
But the case has polarized opinion in Sweden. In an editorial published on Thursday, tabloid Expressen gave its backing to the translator.
“However unpleasant and nasty a work of fiction might be, and whatever one thinks about Japanese porn involving cartoon children, there is actually no victim here. The children in the Uppland man’s manga comics were not molested since they were characters in a comic.”
The translator’s lawyer, Leif Silbersky, expressed surprise at the June 30th ruling and has lodged a formal appeal on behalf of his client.
“It goes against all common sense. These are just drawings; no children have been harmed,” he told Upsala Nya Tidning.
Judge Pålbrant said he too would welcome a second opinion from the Court of Appeal due to the precedential nature of the case.