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MediaRing with Her Excellency, Ms. Signe Burgstaller, Ambassador of Sweden to the Republic of Moldova

01 December 2016
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Media Azi:

- Your Excellency, starting from the assertion that free press is the watchdog of a society, what was and what is the role of the Swedish media in securing the democracy in your country?

Signe Burgstaller: The strong legal protections for media in Sweden is derived from the Freedom of the Press Act, first passed in of 1766 as the first one in the world, as well as the 1991 Fundamental Law of Freedom of Expression. The Freedom of the Press Act provides protections to journalists’ sources and guarantees access to information and there is a high degree of respect for the freedom of expression and information in the country. This is also shown in the fact that Sweden is ranked among the top countries in global freedom of the press, expression and access to information indeces.  

On 2 December 1766, Sweden became the first country in the world to constitutionally protect freedom of the press and freedom of information, preceding the Virginia Declaration of Rights (1776) by ten years and the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (1789) by almost twenty-five years.

The story of Swedish freedom of the press has been both unexpected and eventful, and has undoubtedly played a vital role in the development of the Swedish state and democracy. The structure of the modern Swedish administration was initiated in the 1600s and in the Age of Liberty, in the 1700s, public exchange of views became a natural part of politics which led to a growing demand for greater freedom of the press. After passing the act in 1766, publication of political pamphlets increases by 769% between 1767 and 1772. The act was also groundbreaking for the principle of public access to information, and made it legal to publish and read the minutes and documents from public agencies, parliament and government. Yet the road to an open democracy was riddled with setbacks and shortly after the act was passed, certain restrictions were reintroduced. Varying degrees of freedom, censorship and control would characterize the Swedish society until after the Second World War.

The story is also about the functioning of the press itself. In 1916, the Swedish Press Council was formed, the oldest of its kind in the world, and was the start of the self-regulating system that Swedish press still functions under. The same year the world’s first rules about press ethics were adopted by the Press Council. 

The interwar-period and during the Second World War, restrictive measures were introduced to the freedom of expression and press. But four years after the Second World War, the Freedom of the Press Act that applies today comes into effect. Source protection and whistle-blowing protection are among the new features in the 1949 Freedom of the Press Act.

The principle of freedom of information means that the general public and the mass media have access to official records. This affords Swedish citizens clear insight into the activities of government and local authorities. Scrutiny is seen as valuable for a democracy, and transparency reduces the risk of corruption. Access to official records also means that civil servants and others who work for the government are free to inform the media or outsiders. However, documents can be classified if they involve matters of national security; Sweden’s relationship with another country or international organization; national fiscal, monetary or currency policy; inspection, control and other supervisory operations by public authorities; the pre­vention or prosecution of crimes; the economic interests of the general public; protection of the personal and financial position of private individuals; and the protection of animal or plant species. As of 1 January 2014, information linked to cooperation in the EU can also be classified.
 
- Let talk about the media market in Sweden. To what extent is this market diverse, what problems is it facing, what are its latest tendencies?

S. B.: The media landscape in Sweden is diverse and characterized by the existence of both public broadcasting and many private radio/tv/internet and print media outlets. However, concentration in private media ownership in the broadcasting sector has been raised by international watchdogs as a concern. Much has happened on the Swedish media market in the last 20 years, The digital revolution has changed the market profoundly, as has globalization of ownership, and the media consumption has moved to new platforms. Access to the internet is widespread and is unrestricted by the government, and the medium was used by about 93 percent of the population in 2014. Both Sweden and Finland have been able to make good use of the possibilities of the digital era and legislation has attempted to keep up with the changing landscape. World Economic Forums Global Information Technology Report places Finland and Sweden second and third.

Internet gets the most user time of any media, followed by TV and radio, and an average of six hours is spent on media every day among Swedes 9 to 79 years old according to the Swedish Broadcast Authority. In 2015, Swedish news sites had more than 40 million visitors weekly. As in all countries, printed press is losing ground, yet printed media amounts to about 2.8 million paid-for newspapers daily in 2014, and nearly 770,000 copies of a free newspaper. On average, 67 per cent of the Swedish population reads a morning newspaper. Sweden has had tax-funded press subsidies since the early 1970s as a way of supporting newspapers, encourage competition and ensuring diversity in opinions and information.

Expression considered to be hate speech, and threats or expressions of contempt directed against a group or member of a group, is outlawed in legislation. A lively debate is underway in Sweden about the limits of free speech regarding contentious issues like immigration or Islam. The penal code criminalizes defamation, and offenders may face up to two years in prison.

The self-regulatory Swedish Press Council was established in 1916 and has jurisdiction over printed media and online content. It consists of a judicial board as well as industry representatives and independent members. Complaints are investigated by an appointed Ombudsman. Although the Council does not have authority over broadcast media, it does operate an ethical code across all media platforms. The code is applied to broadcast media by the Swedish Broadcasting Authority, which has a separate body—the Review Board—for examining the content of radio and television programs. The Review Board issued several decisions in 2014, particularly on content considered to be partial or unbalanced.

Around one case per day of harassment against Swedish media was noted in the last year and four out of ten news outlets had received threats against their staff or property in 2013. 2016 Sweden ranks as the no. 1 country in the world in offering shelter to writers and artists at risk within the International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN). Currently more than 17 Swedish cities and regions are active parts within the ICORN network.

- The mass-media of Moldova are rated as partly free by the world press freedom ranking. What would you recommend to us to undertake in order to achieve the free press standards? What underlying principles of the Swedish press model might be helpful for us from this regard?

S.B.: There are many components to this matter. At the outset, there needs to be a good understanding and a commitment from the state, media actors and other stakeholders to the concept of free and pluralistic media in a democratic society. Scrutiny must be seen as valuable for a democracy, and transparency a way to reduce the risk of abuse of power.  As such, a solid legislative framework is a good basis, which needs followed up by relevant regulation and suitable sanctions for non-compliance. But that is one part; another is that of self-regulation, integrity and professionalism among journalists and the media outlets themselves and the monitoring bodies. Access to information needs to be ensured in practical terms as well as the space to work and safety of journalists.

Victoria Miron, Mass-media Programme Director, Soros Moldova Foundation:

- Sweden is a country of reference in terms of mass-media regulation and self-regulation. What would matter more for the present condition of the media in the Republic of Moldova, in your opinion: a good legal framework or an appropriate framework for media self-regulation?

S.B.: My short answer is that both do matter.

- Undoubtedly, the media should be accountable to the citizens. How did the Swedish society succeed to have accountable media and what best practices in this field could be taken over from Sweden by us, the Moldovans?

S.B.: The far-reaching freedom of expression and freedom of the press we have in Sweden puts a huge responsibility on the individual newspapers, responsible publishers and editors of newspapers and other media. Freedom must be used with great care. Therefore it is important that the press has its own code of ethics, in addition to the laws. Apart from state regulating bodies, such as the Swedish Broadcasting Council and the judicial system that oversees the media sector, the self-disciplinary system of the Swedish press is of great importance.

It is not based on legislation. It is entirely voluntary and wholly financed by four press organizations: The Swedish Newspaper Publishers' Association, The Magazine Publishers' Association, The Swedish Union of Journalists and The National Press Club. These organizations are also responsible for drawing up the Code of Ethics for Press, Radio and Television in Sweden.

The Swedish Press Council (Pressens Opinionsnämnd, PON), founded in 1916, is the oldest tribunal of its kind in the world. The Press Council is composed of a judge, who acts as chairman, one representative from each of the above-mentioned press organizations and three representatives of the general public who are not allowed to have any ties to the newspaper business or to the press organizations.

The office of the Press Ombudsman (Allmänhetens Pressombudsman, PO) was established in 1969. Its holder is appointed by a special committee consisting of the Chief Parliamentary Ombudsman (JO), the chairman of the Swedish Bar Association and the chairman of the National Press Club. Before the establishment of the office of the Press Ombudsman, complaints regarding violations of good journalistic practice were filed with the Press Council. Nowadays the complaints are first handled by the Press Ombudsman, who is also empowered to take up matters on his own initiative, provided that the person or persons concerned are in agreement.

Any interested members of the public can lodge a complaint with the PO against newspaper items they regard as a violation of good journalistic practice. But the person to whom the article relates must provide written consent if the complaint is to result in formal criticism of the newspaper.

When a complaint is filed, PO's task is to ascertain whether it can be dealt with by a factual correction or a reply from the affected person published in the newspaper concerned. PO may contact the newspaper for this purpose. If the matter cannot be settled in this way, the Press Ombudsman may undertake an inquiry if he suspects that the rules of good journalistic practice have been violated. He will then ask the newspaper's editor-in-chief to answer to the allegations of the complainant. That person will in his turn be offered the opportunity to comment on the newspaper's reply. Complaints must as a rule be filed within three months of the original publication.

Once the inquiry is concluded, PO has two alternatives: either (1) the matter is not considered to warrant formal criticism of the newspaper, or (2) the evidence obtained is weighty enough to warrant decision by the Press Council. If PO writes off a complaint (option 1) the complainant may appeal that decision directly to the Press Council. Nothing prevents the complainant from taking the matter to a regular court of law after review by PO and the Press Council.

A newspaper that has been found to violate good journalistic practice is expected to publish the written decision of the Press Council. It shall also pay an administrative fine.

In recent years, 350-400 complaints have been registered annually. These often concern coverage of criminal matters and invasion of privacy. About 30% of the complaints have been reviewed by the Press Council either on PO's demand or, if PO has written off the case, on appeal by the complainant. The remainder, which constitute the large majority of complaints, have been written off for various reasons, e.g. because the complaints were unsubstantiated or the newspaper printed a correction or a reply. 10-15% of all complaints have resulted in formal criticism of the newspaper in question by the Press Council.

- You have surely noticed that much propaganda from both inside and outside is disseminated through the media in our country. This propaganda has reached its purpose so far. Taking into account your country’s experience, how could we minimize the harmful and destructive effects of propaganda on the society?

S.B.: Disinformation is intent on undermining the very notion of objective information, casting all information as biased or an instrument of political power. Such propaganda and disinformation risk undermining trust in media and institutions, and promoting the spread of online echo chambers, where conspiracy theories and half-truths are wielded against opponents and journalists. This erodes public trust in institutions on which democratic societies are built. The Nordic countries are by no means immune to threats against freedom of expression. Hate speech and radicalisation, especially online, are an ever-growing concern in our societies as well. This is why we are working with our Nordic and Baltic neighbours to train journalists in investigative journalism and to support free and independent media in areas specifically affected by disinformation and propaganda.

Propaganda and disinformation has to be met by facts. There seems to be a certain resistance to facts lately and it is increasingly important that false or misleading news stories are met by factual and concrete replies. We all have to do the research, be critical of sources and factual.

The media landscape is changing rapidly, creating both opportunities and challenges for freedom of expression and media freedom. In many countries, the shift from traditional newspapers and TV to digital distribution channels has already occurred. The internet and social media empower people to exercise their freedom of opinion and expression and their right to access information. Today, we are all potential journalists, thanks to technological advances and social media. Freedom and responsibility go hand in hand when exercising the right to express an opinion.

New technology can be an enabler of democratic development. At the same time, this technology can be used as a vehicle for spreading propaganda and disinformation. Critical thinking and source criticism are crucial in this context. The media play a key role in connecting the dots, so that citizens can be their own judge of what is the truth and what is not.

- Who should play the role of the “first violin” in countering the propaganda: the authorities, the civil society, the media?

S.B.: There is no complete and clear prescription for how to counter disinformation and propaganda. All stakeholders are equally important in this work. To train investigative journalists and to support free and independent media in areas specifically affected by disinformation and propaganda, to provide information and training in media literacy both to stakeholders and consumers are possible ways to counter disinformation. The Involvement of civil society, independent media and the state in this effort is essential.

- Sweden provides a massive support to the independent media of Moldova. Why?

S.B.: A free and independent media is one of the cornerstones of a democratic society. Without freedom of expression and freedom of the media, it is not possible for the citizens to be informed, active and engaged. An independent media can ensure transparency and accountability, and it can provide diverse information to the citizens to raise awareness on a wide range of topics. For these reason Sweden sees a strong independent media not only as an end result but also a means to achieve reforms and sustainable development in any country. We therefore think it is important to support the capacity-building of the independent media of Moldova.

- It is good that the online media are developing rapidly in the Republic of Moldova, too. But, on the other hand, the problem is that a large share of the online media show professional irresponsibility, particularly during the election campaigns. How has your country/media solve this problem?

S.B.: Sweden is a strong supporter of freedom on the internet – the same rights that apply offline also apply online, including the freedom of expression. The freedom of expression of course has to allow for all sorts of opinions and points of view. Lying and unethical behavior are not by default illegal. However, freedom and responsibility must go hand in hand when exercising the right to express an opinion.

In Sweden, to the extent that the freedom of expression is limited by law in certain, strictly defined ways – for example when it comes to protecting the individual against defamation and insulting language or when it comes to publishing images with elements of sexual violence – those same laws also apply for publications online.

The self-regulation rules and code of ethics for the printed media, radio and TV, as outlined above, also has to play an important role here. "Good journalistic practice" means conveying accurate information, being generous in one's contacts, respecting people's privacy and integrity and observing care with the publication of photographs. At the same time, public figures must withstand a greater degree of critical examination compared with "ordinary" people.

Sweden's extensive freedom of the press and freedom of expression place considerable responsibility on individual newspapers, editors and editorial offices. The press, radio, tv and websites have therefore drawn up their own ethical rules, as described above.

Vasile Spinei, President of Acces-Info:

- Sweden has two important documents in the same field: the Freedom of the Press Act and the Act on Freedom of Expression. The latter is more complex, because it contains clauses on television, cinema, audio-visuals, online media. Why the provisions of the Freedom of the Press Act were not included in it, when it was adopted? Is this act more symbolic by its essence, being linked to the 250th anniversary, or does it still have a real impact?

S.B.: Indeed out of Sweden’s four fundamental laws, two provide more specific regulations on freedom of expression in the media: the Freedom of the Press Act and the Fundamental Law on Freedom of Expression. The Freedom of the Press Act regulates the freedom to express oneself in printed publications, such as books and magazines, and the Fundamental Law on Freedom of Expression regulates freedom of expression in media, including radio, television and films, and, to a certain extent, on the internet. The freedom of the press dates back to 1766, but the current Freedom of the Press Act was adopted in 1949. The Fundamental Law on Freedom of Expression was added in 1991, and is modelled on the Freedom of the Press Act. It came about to cover the more “modern” forms of media. The fundamental laws form the basis of our democratic state.

- What are the ways to restore the persons’ violated rights to press freedom and to freedom of expression?

S.B.: The editors of Swedish newspapers are accountable for all content published, printed or on the newspaper’s website, including those filed in archives, and are thus legally responsible for material approved by their predecessors. Broadcast media has to appoint a responsible publisher and notify the Swedish Broadcast Authority. The publisher is responsible for infringements of the freedom of expression during broadcasts, for example hate crimes, defamation or slander.  In the same way as on radio, tv and in printed press, freedom of expression is protected in publications on internet.  Websites, web-radio, web-tv and e-newspapers can be covered by the constitution.

Complaints can be logged with the Press Ombudsman and be raised by the Swedish Press Council, see above. In 2015 only 1,2%, or 4 of the 342 entries for publication and freedom of speech violations lodged with the Chancellor of Justice (JK) went to prosecution.

- What are the need and the ways for providing State subsidies to media outlets? To what extent is such a measure justified?

S.B.: In the case of Sweden, tax-funded state subsidies is viewed as a positive way of supporting diversity and plurality in media, as it does not discriminate in opinion. Generally, media subsidies can be divided into different categories: i 1) public service, 2) direct support, 3) indirect support and 4) other forms of support.

In Sweden, public broadcasting is funded by a license fee, as required by the Act on Financing of Radio and Television. In return, public broadcasting has to be impartial, fair and provide the Swedish people with balanced and factual information and must be completely free from advertisement. Since February 2013, every household that has a television receiver has had to pay an annual fee of SEK 2,076 ($307).
As mentioned above, Sweden also has had tax-funded press subsidies since the early 1970s as a way of supporting newspapers that compete with other, higher-circulation publications and thus ensure competition and plurality. This is also a way of mitigating the ownership concentration in the sector of printed media. The support can be direct, to cover operational and distribution costs or indirect in the form of tax exemptions. 

- What are the State’s levers to prevent the concentration and monopolization of the media?

S.B.: As mentioned above, the tax-funded press subsidies that have existed since the early 1970s is a way for the state to attempt to balance the occurrence of monopolization in printed media.

Natalia Porubin, Project Coordinator, Centre for Journalistic Investigations:

- To what extent is the press controlled in Moldova and what are the main challenges faced today by the media in our country, in your opinion?

S.B.: In Moldova, we see a partly contradictory picture; on the one hand, there is a diversified media landscape with a great number of professional, brave and outspoken journalists, reporting what they see and uncover on a multitude of platforms. The access to internet, and the amount of internet media sites, is impressive.

On the other hand, Moldova has been dropping in Reporters without Borders’ Press Freedom Index over the past two years. This trend is related to a number of concerns. These include: concentration and lack of transparency in ownership of media, editorial independence of media outlets, difficulty in accessing information (especially from public institutions) as well as a legal framework that does not live up to international standards and recommendations.

Lately, we have also observed with concern reports of blocking of internet sites and tv broadcasts, intimidation and court cases against journalists, as well as increasing financial pressure on independent media actors. This may increase tendencies for self-censorship, hamper the media’s role as a watch-dog and lead to the closing down of independent media channels.

As mentioned above, there needs to be a good understanding and a commitment from the state, media actors and other stakeholders to the concept of free and pluralistic media in a democratic society. Scrutiny must be seen as valuable for a democracy, and transparency a way to reduce the risk of abuse of power. As such, a solid legislative framework is a good basis, which needs followed up by relevant regulation and suitable sanctions for non-compliance. But that is one part; another is that of self-regulation, integrity and professionalism among journalists and the media outlets themselves and the monitoring bodies. Access to information needs to be ensured in practical terms as well as the space to work and safety of journalists. It will also be important to adopt an updated audio-visual code in line with international standards and recommendations.

- Over the past years, Sweden has supported a number of projects in Moldova. To what extent was the support provided to our country effectively used, in your opinion?

S.B.: Sweden has been a long-term development partner of the government and people of Moldova and has provided development assistance since 1996. Currently, the cooperation between Sweden and Moldova is governed by the “Results Strategy for Reform Cooperation with Eastern Europe, Western Balkans and Turkey 2014-2020”. The Swedish support has a strong focus on reforms that promote European integration and democratic governance. Our bilateral support program amounts to about 10 million euro per year.
 
Overall, the support has been effectively used and achieved expected results, even if in some cases there have been delays in implementation. The main challenges in implementation relate to the political will to drive reform and to frequent staff changes at management level among local partners which effects the sustainability of the program work.
 
- Corruption is one of the major problems currently faced by the Moldovan State. What should be changed in our country in order to achieve visible results in fighting high-level corruption?
 
S.B.: Corruption is a major problem for many countries and indeed is a considerable barrier for sustainable and democratic development of the Republic of Moldova. Zero tolerance for corruption is an important target, not just in relation to the implementation of the Association Agreement between the EU and Moldova, but also for the strengthening of the social contract between the state and the citizens of Moldova, with the aim to ensure better quality of life, improved public services and economic development.
 
The EU and its Members States, including Sweden, have provided support to Moldova for many years to enhance national legation regarding the fight against corruption and to strengthen institutional capacities of relevant law enforcement agencies (budgetary support for justice sector 2011-2016, High-level advisors on justice, anti-corruption, prosecution, technical assistance for anti-corruption entities, etc.). Many legislative amendments already form part of the national legal framework and law enforcement institutions have initiated sectorial reforms (prosecution reform, National Agency of Integrity reform, National Anti-Corruption Centre reform, etc.). However, Moldova is still facing challenges with regard to the implementation of the national legislation in this field, and with the integrity of the public and financial sectors.
 
The Council of the EU conclusions on the Republic of Moldova from February 2016 are very relevant for the question of yours. I believe Moldovan authorities should address them as a matter of top priority, including in their fight against high-level corruption. According to the Council of the EU, the Government should prioritize reforms aimed at addressing the politicization of state intuitions, systemic corruption, transparency and accountability of the management of public finance.
 
There is also reason to be concerned about the lack of independence of the judiciary and law enforcement agencies, and about the status of the prosecution reform and the politicization of the judiciary and anti-corruption institutions. High- level corruption can only be addressed if there are independent, accountable, effective, transparent and accessible judiciary and law enforcement agencies. It is also important to ensure that the recruitment and promotion of judges, prosecutors, police officers, anti-corruption investigators, bailiffs and public servants working in public procurement sector is transparent and merit-based.
 
A continued emphasis on the implementation of reforms is thus needed in order to achieve real and visible results when it comes to fighting high-level corruption. This should be a matter of high priority for the Government of Moldova.
 
Viorica Zaharia, media expert:
 
- Madam Ambassador, what models could the Republic of Moldova follow in order to counter the concentration of media ownership and to ensure a real pluralism of opinions and information, in your opinion?

S.B.: Same as above, there needs to be a good understanding and a commitment from the state, media actors and other stakeholders to the concept of free and pluralistic media in a democratic society.

In order to ensure a diverse and pluralistic media landscape, it is also important that independent media has equal access to incomes through advertising. Another way to balance the occurrence of monopolization is to provide tax-funded state subsidies to media outlets. The Swedish model for tax-funded state subsidies is described above.
 
- You are in Moldova for over one year. You probably have already an impression about what consequences the journalistic investigations on corruption issues have on the concerned public officials. How do you assess the respective consequences?
 
S.B.: Independent media is one of the most important pillars of society to prevent and fight corruption and to promote accountability within the public sector in any country. And Moldova is not an exception. Sweden is supporting media CSOs in Moldova to promote professional and ethic journalism and to strengthen the capacity of media in the face of increasing financial and administrative challenges.
 
By presenting facts and conducting independent journalistic investigations, by combating “propaganda” and by raising public awareness about crimes, corruption and irregularities in public procurement, the independent media is playing a key role in the democratic development of Moldova.
 
There still exists a gap, however, between the independent journalistic investigations and relevant stakeholders, including law enforcement bodies. There is, for example, reason to be concerned about the new initiative promoted by the Supreme Council of Magistrates to approve the “Regulation on access to courts” (approved on 21 October) and to restrict media access to public hearings. We hope the decision to postpone and revise the new regulation will allow for more expert advice from CSOs and the independent media, and that freedom of the press and access to information will be safeguarded.

Adrian Petcu, Editor-in-Chief, Radio Moldova Actualități:
 
- How does the press cooperate with the law enforcement authorities towards fighting corruption?
 
S.B.: I’m not aware that there exists a direct cooperation between the press and the law enforcement authorities in Sweden in the fight against corruption, at least not in any formal sense. Undoubtedly, both independent media and the law enforcement authorities have a critical role to play in the fight against corruption, but the roles are different - and very often can be complementary.
 
- Are there any differences in the editorial policy of public and private media outlets in Sweden?
 
S.B.: As mentioned above, public service media has to observe impartiality and plurality of opinion and avoid the use of any kind of advertisement or preferential treatment. This does not apply to private media outlets.
 
- What are the tasks of the Swedish institutions similar to the Broadcasting Coordinating Council or to the Press Council of Moldova?
 
S.B.: The Swedish Broadcasting Authority works for the freedom of expression and supports the possibilities for plurality and accessibility within press, radio and tv. The Authority decides on registration, fees and broadcasting permits for media actors in radio and tv and support to printed press. It monitors media outlets to make sure they follow laws and regulations and it provides statistics and analysis of the development in the media sector for the public. Rules and regulations that apply can vary depending on the media. Public Service media has demands on neutrality that does not apply for private media outlets for example. In general, media should be factual and respect private life. The authority also monitors that use of advertising and sponsorships are according to the rules as well as the rating of different content.
 
In 1916, the Swedish Press Council was formed. The Council is the oldest of its kind in the world. The same year the world’s first rules about press ethics were adopted by the Press Council. Press organizations also decided to set up a court of honor, the Press Council. The reason was that some newspapers - during the ongoing World War – had

become the propaganda organs of the warring states, which damaged the reputation of the press. Previously the Council consisted only of media professional, but now also includes representatives of the public.In 1969 the function of the Press Ombudsman was formed. This strengthening of the press ethics system came about as a result of, among other things, the sensational journalism that emerged after World War II, which created a need to create a stronger protection of individuals.
 
- What is the risk for an institution or a freelance journalist who manipulates the public opinion?
 
S.B.: Manipulation of public opinion is in itself not punishable by default. Should the information disseminated be false, it could be met by corrections or other appropriate responses, for instance by independent media. If the information disseminated is contrary to the legislation on freedom of expression, for example if it would be a case of defamation or hate speech, it could be processed according to the routines mentioned above by the Swedish Broadcasting Authority, the Swedish Press Council or in courts.
 
Oleg Brega, civic activist, Curaj TV reporter:
 
- Assange case puts Sweden in a bad light, given that prosecutors came to hearings after he has spent four years of refuge in Ecuador Embassy in London. Meanwhile, the WikiLeaks model is becoming a new type of media and activism. What do you think about this lawsuit?
 
S.B.: As a Swedish Government official, I have no opinion on an ongoing case that is handled by Swedish judicial authorities. According to the basic principles of the rule of law, the Swedish Office of the Prosecutor and the courts are independent and separated from the Government. However, I may point out that Mr Assange has chosen, voluntarily, to stay at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London over the last four years, and Swedish authorities have no control over his decision to stay there. The ongoing case against Mr Assage does not concern his activities with WikiLeaks.
 
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