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Gränsdragningen mellan yttrandefrihet och hets mot folkgrupp: En undersökning av gällande rätt utifrån ett samtida perspektiv
Karlstad University, Faculty of Economic Sciences, Communication and IT.
Karlstad University, Faculty of Economic Sciences, Communication and IT.
2006 (Swedish)Independent thesis Basic level (degree of Bachelor), 10 points / 15 hpStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

Abstract

This essay begins with a presentation of the complex set of problems which relate to the interaction between freedom of speech and the ban against discrimination based on a person's race, the colour of their skin or ethnic origin, confession of faith or sexual preference (BrB 16:8, incitement to racial hatred). Can conflicts arise between freedom of speech and the ban against discrimination? To shed light on this question, we have chosen to look at the issue from a new perspective. This perspective is based on the new challenges faced by Swedish society as a result of the changed composition of our population, our membership in the EU and our acknowledgment of certain international conventions concerning human rights.

Fifty years ago our population almost solely comprised of “native Swedes”. Today, because of massive immigration, our country can be described as multiracial and multicultural. This gives rise to questions concerning protecting minority groups from discrimination whilst also attempting to ensure that the non-discrimination acts do not compromise our freedom of speech. Our membership in the EU and our acknowledgement of certain international conventions means that European law and international law sometimes override Swedish law. This restricts our freedom to decide the extent of our non-discrimination statutes, but can have positive effects on the right to freedom of speech and religion.

The arguments that are put forward in our essay may give rise to many questions but we will focus on two major issues. First, where does the law draw the line between the freedom of speech and the ban against discrimination based on a person's race, the colour of their skin or ethnic origin, confession of faith, or sexual preference? Second, are there inherit flaws in the law as a result of both the inner changes our society has gone through and our new responsibilities due to our membership in the EU and our acknowledgement of certain international conventions?

The purpose of this essay is to answer these questions through studying and reflecting on the theory of law (doctrine). We will also analyse the existing written law and its sources, and consider court rulings and related judicial decisions. This analysis will enable us to make the following conclusion concerning the previously mentioned questions.

The freedom of speech is extensive and is not explicitly defined. Without explicit definition, no specific statements automatically become illegal. Therefore a person's freedom to express his own opinion in public is wide-ranging. Unfortunately our freedom of speech is not guaranteed for ever and therefore we have to both treasure and guard it from potential threats. Popular public opinion, populist interests or other specific interests may seek changes, which might effect our freedom of speech. The ban against discrimination based on a person's race, the colour of their skin or ethnic origin, confession of faith, or sexual preference is a specific interest of this kind. The purpose of this ban is based solely on good intentions. None the less, this ban could be a wolf in sheep’s clothing, as it might have a negative influence on the freedom of speech. When two justifiable causes come into conflict with one another – in this case the freedom of speech versus non-discrimination – a society must make difficult choices. Do we sacrifice part of our freedom of speech which will effect the whole population in order to protect minority groups, or do we sacrifice the rights of the minority in order to secure freedom of speech for all?

During the last few years there has been an increase in Nazi-organisations in Sweden, which have grown strong in terms of both the number of their supporters and the amount of attention which is paid to them by the press. These groups have used our democratic rights – which includes our freedom of speech – in order to spread their scornful opinions based on a person's race, the colour of their skin or ethnic origin, confession of faith, or sexual preference. Through our study of court rulings concerning Nazis, we came to the conclusion that there is a strong tendency to convict Nazis. This is certainly the case if they call out “Sieg Heil” or salute Hitler. They are also often convicted if they are wearing the Nazi cross.

When the courts find that they are unable to convict a Nazi for the actions just mentioned, they often base their judgement on either one or two premises. If the prosecutor can not prove that it has been the Nazi's intention to spread a scornful message concerning a group defined by it's race, the colour of their skin or ethnic origin, confession of faith, or sexual preference, he can not be convicted with reference to the non-discrimination act (uppsåtsrekvisitet). Moreover, if it can not be proven that the message has reached a considerable number of people and not just the Nazis private sphere, this also warrants the verdict of acquittal (spridningsrekvisitet). From our study of court rulings however, we found that the non-discrimination statute does fulfil its purpose. Most scornful or hate-filled messages are in fact disseminated to the wider public. This being the case, the Nazi is almost certain to be convicted.

Religious fundamentalism is not something entirely new in our society. Sweden has always had a few religious groups free from the state church and the members of the free churches have often held conservative religious beliefs, much like some Muslim movements today. Freedom of speech and religious freedom are of course two important elements of any democratic society, but through a court case concerning a Christian priest in a free church, the freedom of speech related to preaching has arguably become unacceptably extensive. In effect this court case means that as long as you can relate your scornful statement about a specific group included in the non-discrimination statute to a religious scripture like the Bible or the Koran, you can not be prosecuted.

This somewhat unsatisfactory conclusion is a result of Sweden adopting the European Convention of Human Rights. In this case the European Rights Law overrides the Swedish non-discrimination law and this leads to a flaw in our legal system relating to the protection of certain minority groups. It must be mentioned, however, that the European Convention of Human Rights is part of Swedish law, and therefore Swedish law can not contradict European law, RF 2:23. Given that we are bound by the European Rights Law, there is nothing Sweden can do about this flaw, which in the future might have even greater consequences in and on our multicultural society. For instance, what would happen if messages filled with hatred were spread by priests from the Christian free churches and fundamentalist Muslims. If these statements concerned the other group and the origin of the statements could be traced to the Bible and the Koran, the courts would have no way of convicting the preachers as this would go against the European Convention on Human Rights. This could result in serious social instability. Indeed, riots could break out as a result of such religious propaganda. The law would be powerless to halt the dissemination of the religious scorn which caused the riots.

We have come to three conclusions concerning intrinsic flaws in the law concerning the ban against discrimination based on a person's race, the colour of their skin or ethnic origin, confession of faith or sexual preference. We therefore recommend that the following changes should be made:

1. Concerning BrB 16:8, this act should include an unmistakable and transparent definition of the word “missaktning” (scornfulness or disrespect).

2. With reference to the High Court’s ruling regarding the priest and the European Convention on Human Rights, we recommend that Sweden should attempt to find a legal solution which will enable our courts to more easily convict scornful statements regarding certain minority groups, even if the origin of the statement can be traced to religious writings.

3. With reference to the instruction in the Freedom of Press Act (TF 1:4), we find it necessary to clarify which statements that can be looked upon as legal and which statements are unlawful.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2006. , p. 62
Keywords [en]
Law, Freedom of speech, Incitement to racial hatred
Keywords [sv]
Rättsvetenskap, Yttrandefrihet, Hets mot folkgrupp
National Category
Law
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-271OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kau-271DiVA, id: diva2:5919
Presentation
2006-06-07
Uppsok
samhälle/juridik
Supervisors
Examiners
Available from: 2006-06-29 Created: 2006-06-29

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