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Journalist fined for doing his journalistic duty?

The court fined him for logging onto the intranet of Sweden's then governing party, but an expert on freedom of expression says the journalist was just doing his journalistic duty and calls the verdict a serious blow for freedom of information.

On Friday, former Expressen reporter Niklas Svensson was convicted of data trespass and fined 40 days' wages, totalling 8,000 SEK for his involvement in the 'hacking scandal' that rocked Sweden in the run-up to last year's parliamentary election. However, despite early day conspiracy theories, there was no actual hacking involved.

Svensson was given the log-in details to the Socialdemocratic Party's intranet, Säpnet, by Liberal Party youth activist Per Jodenius who had obtained them from a Social Democratic Youth Party activist (who had revealed them because he thought it funny that someone used a stupid nickname both for username and password). Both youth activists were convicted for data trespass and fined.

"A schoolboy prank that got out of hand, or the low point of Swedish political debate? Sweden's newspapers are divided," writes The Local. Anders R Olsson, an author and expert on freedom of expression, writing in trade journal Journalisten, calls the 'scandal' a catastrophe for journalism: "This confirms that the constitutionally embedded freedom of information isn't valid in the IT-society." Olsson refers to the paragraph below (hope to find time to translate this in the morning), and concludes that Svensson was within his rights, as he didn't commit any crimes to obtain the log-in details for Säpnet.

Tryckfrihetsförordningens portalparagraf (1 kap 1 §) avslutas med: ”Vidare skall envar äga rätt att, om ej annat följer av denna förordning, anskaffa uppgifter och underrättelser i vad ämne som helst för att offentliggöra dem i tryckt skrift eller för att lämna meddelande som avses i föregående stycke.”


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