The law passed with a huge majority, with 270 MPs voting in favour and only 37 against.
Before the vote, Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson defended the changes as necessary to improve Sweden’s ability to cooperate internationally, stressing that it “states explicitly in the law that it is not about constraining the work of journalists, but about an express will to hurt these interests.
He said that the need for the law had become increasingly apparent.
“It has been pointed out to us for a long time that there is a gap in Swedish law which makes it more difficult for us to work together with other countries in international operations,” he said. “It is therefore reasonable, if Sweden wants to be a party of those operations that we have the same laws as other Nordic countries have, and which take a significant account of journalistic work and public expression.”
During the debate, the Left Party MP Jessica Wetterling, said that the new law was “opening Pandora’s box”, by putting new restrictions on the freedom of expression and of the press.
“This is going to lead to enormous uncertainty over what you can publish and people are going end up self-censoring and not dare to be whistleblowers,” she said.
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The new law will create new crimes of “foreign espionage”, “aggravated foreign espionage”, and “disclosing secret information in international cooperation”.
These offences will require changes to Sweden’s press and freedom of expression legislation, putting new limits on the these constitutional rights.
This means that it could be a punishable crime in some situations to disclose secret information which comes about as a result of Sweden’s international cooperation which could harm Sweden’s relationships to another country or international organisation.
Under Sweden’s current espionage legislation, secret information obtained, disclosed or passed to another state must directly harm Sweden’s security. Under the new law, it is enough for it to damage relations with another country.
As the new law required changes to Sweden’s constitution, it needs to be voted on twice, with a general election in between the two votes.
Wednesday’s vote was the second, following an earlier vote this spring, meaning the changes are now part of Swedish law.