EU Observers reports that the famous, or rather infamous and certainly badly understood, proposal by the Committee on Culture and Education concerning blogs and bloggers “died on the floor of the European Parliament on Thursday 25 September.” What remains, according to the EU Observer, is a call for “an open discussion on all issues relating to the status of weblogs.” The Legislative Observatory, unfortunately, has not yet put the decision on line so non-MEPS will have to wait and see the details of the decision.
In Sweden, but hardly in any other member country, there was a furore against what was seen as an attempt by the “EU” to limit the freedom of expression by bloggers. (See our previous posting on the Swedish interpretation of the proposal and the reactions.) This has to be seen against the backdrop of euphoria in the Swedish blogosphere over a perceived victory over the Government in relation to a proposed new law on digital surveillance.
It is strange that so many bloggers reacted against the proposal to clarify the legal status of bloggers. This was for a long time a demand from bloggers themselves. In Sweden -as in most other member states- journalists and media are widely protected against prosecution. They have an almost unconditional right and obligation to protect their sources for instance in connection with police investigations. Journalist and media can only be prosecuted for a limited number of well defined “crimes against the freedom of expression” which mainly have to do with hate speech, for instance against a certain ethnic group.
Bloggers do not have this protection. In theory, therefore, bloggers everyday and everywhere commit crimes against the laws, for instance in the form of slander, insults or just by publishing information or recording the political or religious views of individuals, be they politicians, parliamentarians, business men, sports persons or just ordinary people. In theory, it would be a crime to just state on your blog:”Fredrik Reinfeldt -the Prime Minister-is a conservative politician and a member of the Moderate Party.” We would never say such a thing…
In reality, obviously, prosecution hardly ever takes place. There are examples, nevertheless, often of a scurrilous nature, where indictments have been brought: an editor of a Church Newsletter was taken to court for having recorded that one of the members of the Church had fallen of a ladder and broken her leg.
A clarification of these matters would probably strengthen freedom of expression rather than limit it.