Code of Ethics for the Press, Radio and Television

Country: Sweden

Code of Ethics for Press, Radio and Television in Sweden

The press, radio and television shall have the greatest possible degree of freedom, within the framework of the Freedom of the Press Act and the constitutional right of freedom of speech, in order to be able to serve as disseminators of news and as scrutinizers of public affairs. In this connection, however, it is important that the individual is protected from unwarranted suffering as a result of publicity.

Ethics does not consist primarily of the application of a formal set of rules but in the maintenance of a responsible attitude in the exercise of journalistic duties. The code of ethics for press, radio and television is intended to provide support for this attitude.


The Press Ombudsman, PO, can review printed newspapers and magazines as well as some online publications, i.e. online publications that are members of The Swedish Media Publishers’ Association (TU – Medier i Sverige) or The Magazine Publishers’ Association (Sveriges Tidskrifter), alternatively having filed for membership of the Ethical Press System. The Swedish Press and Broadcasting Authority handles complaints regarding radio and television.


Provide accurate news

  1. The role played by the mass media in society and the trust of the public of these media call for accurate and objective news reporting.
  2. Be critical of news sources. Check facts as carefully as possible in the light of the circumstances even if they have been published earlier. Allow the reader/listener/viewer the possibility of distinguishing between statements of fact and comments.
  3. News bills, headlines and introductory sections must be supported by the text.
  4. Check the authenticity of pictures. See to it that pictures and graphical illustrations are correct and are not used in a misleading way.

Treat rebuttals generously

  1. Factual errors should be corrected when called for. Anyone wishing to rebut a statement shall, if this is legitimate, be given the opportunity to do so. Corrections and rebuttals shall be published promptly in appropriate form, in such a way that they will come to the attention of those who received the original information. It should be noted that a rebuttal does not always call for an editorial comment.
  2. Publish without delay critical rulings issued by the Swedish Press Council in cases concerning your own newspaper.

Respect individual integrity

  1. Consider carefully any publicity which could violate the privacy and integrity of individuals. Refrain from such publicity unless the public interest obviously demands public scrutiny.
  2. Exercise great caution in publishing information about suicide and attempted suicide, particularly with regard to the feelings of relatives and in view of what has been said above concerning the privacy and integrity of individuals.
  3. Always show the greatest possible consideration for victims of crime and accidents. Consider carefully whether to publish names and pictures out of respect for the victims and their relatives.
  4. Do not emphasize ethnic origin, sex, nationality, occupation, political affiliation, religious persuasion or sexual disposition in the case of the persons concerned if this is not important in the specific context or is demeaning.

Exercise care in the use of pictures

  1. Whenever appropriate, these rules also apply to pictures.
  2. Montage, electronic retouch and captions should be handled in such a way as not to mislead or deceive the reader. Whenever a picture has been altered through montage or retouch this should be stated. This also applies to such material when it is filed in picture libraries.

Listen to each side

  1. Offer persons, who are criticized in a factual report, the opportunity to reply instantly to the criticism. Aim at presenting the views of all parties involved. Bear in mind that the sole objective of filing complaints of various kinds with various bodies may be to cause harm to an individual.
  2. Remember that, in the eyes of the law, a person suspected of an offence is always presumed innocent until proven guilty. The outcome of a legal case should be published if it has been previously reported on.

Be careful with naming

  1. Show careful consideration to the harmful consequences that might ensue for persons if their names are published. Refrain from publishing names if it might cause harm unless it is obviously in the public interest.
  2. In case a person´s name is not published, also refrain from publishing a picture of that person or details on occupation, title, age, nationality, sex, etc, which could enable identification.
  3. Bear in mind that the entire responsibility for publishing names and pictures rests with the publisher.

More on Press Ethics

The code of ethics consists of a set of rules for members of the press regarding publicist decisions, it is not legislation. The rules serve as protection of the individual against publicity damages, beyond what the legal system can offer. PO and PON adhere to the press ethic rules in their assessments.

The legal framework concerning publications in newspapers and magazines are part of the Freedom of the Press Act (Tryckfrihetsförordningen, TF). TF gives each citizen the right to express her/himself in writing. The law also offers protection for the individual against defamation in newspapers. Online newspapers adhere to the corresponding rules in the Freedom of Expression Act (Yttrandefrihetsgrundlagen, YGL). If an individual considers her/himself to be subject of slander in a newspaper, there is the possibility of arbitrary prosecution. The Chancellor of Justice can also prosecute.


Rules of professional conduct

Swedish Union of Journalists

Strong journalistic integrity is crucial for maintaining credibility. Those who scrutinize society must also be able to withstand scrutiny. It is important that journalists show due respect when working in the field and that journalists while on duty strive to report correctly, in order to retain the confidence of the general public. Trust in the media and its employees is built upon following the rules of professional conduct.

The journalist’s integrity

1. Do not take on journalistic commissions in your professional capacity from people outside an editorial management group.

2. Do not accept commissions, invitations, gifts, free trips or other benefits – and do not enter into any agreements or other undertakings – that may cast suspicion upon your position as a free and independent journalist.

3. Do not succumb to pressure from outside parties that aims to hinder or restrict legitimate publicity or to create publicity when it is not journalistically motivated.

4. Do not use your position as a journalist, or your press pass, to apply pressure for your own or someone else’s gain or to obtain private benefits.

5. Do not use unpublished news regarding financial circumstances or measures taken by the state, local government, organizations, companies or individuals for your own gain or that of others.

6. Observe the regulations of the collective agreements for journalists, which state that employees may not be ordered to carry out degrading tasks or tasks that are contrary to their believes.

Acquisition of material

7. Show particular consideration to inexperienced interviewees. Inform the interviewee whether the conversation and other material is intended for publication. Be careful to reproduce statements and other material that non-public figures publish in social media.

8. Accommodate reasonable requests from interviewees who want to know in advance how and where their statements will be used.

9. Do not falsify interviews or images.

10. Show due respect when on photographic assignments and when obtaining pictures, especially in connection with accidents and crimes.

11. Hidden camera and other hidden recording equipment, when used for the purpose of publishing, should be used only in exceptional cases, after careful consideration and when a journalistic evaluation has stated that the information is not available in any other way. Concerned parties should be informed that the recording took place and why it was carried out, before publishing the information.

12. Respect copyright rules regarding text, images and sound.

13. State the source when an account is based largely on someone else’s information.

Last updated on 29.10.2018. Source: PO