The Swedish Experience To Make Freedom Of Expression Stronger

Ingrid Teresia
During the spring 2017, an exhibition on the Swedish Press Freedom Act will be displayed in Press Clubs around Pakistan. This is made possible through cooperation between the Freedom Network, the Press Clubs and the Embassy of Sweden.
On 2 December 1776, Sweden became the first country in the world to constitutionally protect freedom of the press and freedom of information. The same law remains valid to this day, in both Sweden and Finland.
The timeline exhibition ‘The Swedish Freedom of the Press Unfolded’ features events reaching from the 15th century until today, thereby not only commemorating the unique document of 1776 but also showcasing the sometimes surprising events preceding and following this date, accounting for both setbacks and good examples.
What relevance could a Swedish exhibition possibly have in Pakistan?
The exhibition aims to show that the struggle for freedom of the press and freedom of information is a universal one. It concerns us all, throughout history as much as it continues to do so today. In its Annual Report 2015/2016, Amnesty International claims that at least 113 countries arbitrarily restricted freedom of expression and the press in recent years.
In Pakistan, an improvement has been observed in media freedom over the last few years, but the country still ranks 147 out 180 states in the Reporters without Borders Index. Hence, Pakistan remains a dangerous country for journalists and media workers to work in.
Recent figures show that 51 killings in Pakistan have been registered by UNESCO in the past 10 years. Based on submissions from the government of Pakistan, the latest UNESCO report classifies 16 cases as ongoing or unresolved. It also signals that no information has been received in a total of 35 cases. The adoption of a bill on the safety of journalists in Pakistan could be a very important step forward to ensure the protection of journalists.
The freedom of expression is of paramount importance as a driving force for development. An open society is fundamental in a stable yet vibrant democracy with good standards of living and a growing economy. Freedom of information is also a prerequisite for other human rights and for democratic oversight. It is no coincidence that Sweden ranks among the very top countries on any global freedom of the press index, as well as on global rankings for innovation, business climate etc. The Swedish experience fully supports all other evidence that a state’s successful strategy for growing stability, democracy and development cannot only be based on economic policies but requires equally strong stands on the protection of free speech and fundamental human rights.

About the author: Ingrid Teresia JOHANSSON is Sweden’s ambassador in Pakistan since May 2016. She is a career diplomat. She did her BSc in Public Administration from Stockholm University in 1990 and MSc in European Studies in 1998 from London School of Economics.
She wrote this blog exclusively for Freedom Network and the senior management of the organization thanks her for this contribution.

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