Bill Allows Newspaper Bugging

The newspaper Dagens Nyheter reports that the Swedish government’s proposed anti-terrorist legislation includes a previously undisclosed clause that would allow the police to plant hidden microphones at newspapers and other media companies, as well as in doctors’ waiting rooms.

The legislation is intended to fight terrorism and organized crime, and includes controversial provisions that would allow the police access to information about e-mail, SMS text messages, and calls via mobile telephones.

According to Dagens Nyheter while part of the proposal forbids bugging media and medical facilities, a leading official at the Ministry of Justice admits there is a loophole which would permit the planting of hidden microphones in such locations.

Sweden takes a very permissive stance on official leaks to the media, and it is illegal for government agencies to try to find whistleblowers. But critics point out that the government’s new proposal would allow the police to listen in while reporters took phone calls from sources.

“This is totally mad”, says the head of the Swedish Journalists Federation, Agneta Lindblom Hultén. “Bugging means a weakening of both informant freedom and protection of sources. And there are several more proposals in the same direction.”

Justice Minister Thomas Bodström says the intention is not to bug newspapers. But, he tells Dagens Nyheter, it is easy to start a newspaper, and the legislation is needed in case sex traffickers and brothel owners start a newspaper and call their premises a newspaper office.

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