An open and free society
Swedish laws and rights protect freedom of the press, the right to take part in demonstrations, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, same-sex marriage, the opportunity to move freely in the countryside and the right to question those in power. Sweden aims to be an equal society where everyone is welcome.
In 1766, Sweden implemented the world's first freedom of press act. Swedish citizens who provide publishers, editors and news agencies with information are entitled to so-called source protection, meaning journalists can never be forced to reveal their sources.
Outside the media, in Sweden there is also today freedom of expression and the right to demonstrate, both of which are intended to secure a free exchange of views, information and artistic creativity. To ensure a civil public discourse, however, Swedish laws protect groups and individuals against hateful or discriminatory speech.
The principle of public access or freedom of information (offentlighetsprincipen) means that the general public and mass media have access to official records. This grants Swedish citizens insight into the activities of government and local authorities. Those who work for the government are free to share their knowledge and information with the media or public, which helps create a transparent and accountable system between the people and the state. Some records may under special circumstances be exempt, in order to for example protect national interests.
Public access extends to nature as well. The Swedish right of public access (allemansrätten) gives people the freedom to roam and camp on privately owned land, as long as care and consideration are given to nature, animals, landowners and other people.
Swedish disability policies make sure that people with disabilities also have the opportunity to exercise their rights as citizens, and to fulfill their obligations. Buses are equipped for wheelchairs, public — as well as many private — buildings and websites are accessible to people with special needs, and crosswalks give audible signals for the blind. These are but a few of the measures taken to give people with disabilities in Sweden better access to society, work and nature.
Equality is an important part of Swedish society. Swedish law forbids discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, religion, gender, age, sexual orientation or functional disabilities. Since 2009 same-sex marriages are legalized in Sweden, and are also approved by the Church of Sweden. The 2009 law is a further development of the 1995 law which permitted gay and lesbian couples to live under registered partnership status. A majority of the Swedish population support this movement toward greater equality for all.