Sweden’s government wants newspapers to pay less tax in an effort to combat fake news

A new proposal from the Swedish government would bring an end to the tax print publications pay on advertising revenue in what is being pitched as an effort to fight fake news.

Sweden's government wants newspapers to pay less tax in an effort to combat fake news
File photo of Swedish newspapers. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

At present, print media firms in Sweden pay a special 2.5 percent tax on ad revenue if it is higher than the 75 million kronor ($9.4 million) mark, which outlets have complained makes it more difficult for them to compete in an increasingly tough climate. Now, the government wants to do away with the tax entirely for both daily newspapers and periodicals with at least four editions per year.

It is hoped that the change can help fund more quality journalism in the age of fake news, the government's finance department told The Local:

“Swedish newspapers and journalism are needed more than ever today. And you hear from them that they want this tax removed, so we hope there can be even more investigative reporting if they no longer have to pay it, and perhaps more journalists will be employed.”

“In the time we now live in of online rumours and fake news we think our daily press in Sweden is incredibly important. One way of supporting it is to remove this tax,” Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson said in a statement.

The change would start from January 2018, and the government is also pushing to reduce costs for digital media, the Finance Department said:

“The government also wants to reduce so-called 'digital VAT', but that's an issue that requires consultation and consensus at EU level.”

While EU nations can set reduced VAT rates on print material, they are currently unable to do so with digital media, where the rate is fixed at 25 percent. The European Council is currently working on a proposal to amend that difference, but an agreement has yet to be reached and is now not due until the second half of 2017.

The subject of fake news has frequently been raised Sweden this year. In March, PM Stefan Löfven warned in an opinion piece that there is no reason to believe the 2018 Swedish general election will be exempt from attempts to influence it through false news stories.

In March meanwhile, it was announced that from July 2018 the Swedish school curriculum will include teaching kids how to differentiate between reliable and unreliable sources.

“We need to advance our criticism of sources to the same level as we previously taught students about scientific theory. You already need to have your first taste of this today at about the age of ten,” Education Minister Gustav Fridolin told The Local at the time.

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Denmark suspects two Swedes over explosion at tax authority

Two Swedish citizens are suspected in connection with last week’s explosion at the Danish Tax Agency. One of the two is in police custody.

Denmark suspects two Swedes over explosion at tax authority
Copenhagen Police superintendent Jørgen Bergen Skov addresses the press. Photo: Philip Davali / Ritzau Scanpix

Copenhagen Police superintendent Jørgen Bergen Skov confirmed the arrests to press on Wednesday morning.

“Both individuals are suspected of carrying out the detonation at the Tax Agency,” Skov said.

One man, aged 22, was arrested in Swedish city Malmö on Tuesday and will be extradited to Denmark. Once he reaches Copenhagen he will appear for preliminary court proceedings, which the prosecution will request take place behind closed doors.

Swedish newspaper Kvällsposten reports the 22-year-old has no previous criminal convictions in the country.

The second man, a 23-year-old, is yet to be detained but an international arrest warrant for him has been issued, Skov said.

“During the night, we also searched several addresses in Sweden. We hereby confiscated what we believe to be a car used by the suspects,” he said.

“We have one suspect on the loose, which means we must be careful about what we say, out of consideration for the investigation,” he added.

The superintendent did not add any detail about how police were able to connect the two individuals to the August 6th explosion.

Skov also stressed that police do not believe the tax authority blast to be connected to a similar incident at a police station in Copenhagen’s Nørrebro neighbourhood in the early hours of Saturday.

“There is nothing to suggest (a connection),” he said.