Swedish government flouts English email ban

Swedish government flouts English email ban
The Swedish government has failed to adhere to a decision by the country's Parliamentary Ombudsman banning the use of English in email addresses.

The Parliamentary Ombudsman (Justitieombudsman – JO) ruled last year the Government Offices (Regeringskansliet) were in breach of the recently adopted language law.

JO ruled that the the use of the English domain names was “at odds with the specific language protection responsibilities which the state imposes on public authorities”.

Rather than featuring the Swedish names of government ministries, Swedish government email addresses instead rely on the English translation.

Thus, employees at the Swedish foreign ministry, for example, have email addresses which look as follows: [email protected]

The situation was referred to the ombudsman by the former head of the Language Council of Sweden (Språkrådet), Olle Josephson. After issuing criticism the case was put aside with JO satisfied that a review had been initiated by the authority.

Josephson has noted in the interim period that nothing has changed at the Government Offices, with the use of the existing English email addresses gratuitously flaunted in instructions for contacting ministers.

“It has now been over a year. The Government Offices have still not adopted the Swedish language addresses,” Josephson complained in a new correspondence, asking JO for guidance on how to proceed to force the Government Offices to act.

The new language law, the first of its kind in Sweden, came into force on July 1st 2009.

The new law stipulates that Swedish is the main language of a multilingual Sweden and establishes that public bodies have a particular responsibility to ensure that Swedish is used and developed.

Josephson, who is a professor in the Nordic languages at Stockholm University, considers the use of English in the government’s email addresses as a political problem.

“It is a statement that Sweden can not be governed in Swedish, but in English instead. One should contact the Government Offices in English – a very strong symbolic statement, which is against the law.”

In his letter to the ombudsman, Josephson questions whether the Government Offices have any intention of addressing the situation and queries whether they are openly flouting the law.

“Should I submit a new report to JO? Should I write a formal letter to the government? Or is there nothing that can be done?” Josephson asked.

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