When Wikileaks urge people all over the world to disclose sensitive information, the online publisher refers to the Swedish constitutional laws on source protection. But experts claim this is an empty promise, as Wikileaks has no licence to publish material in Sweden.
Sweden's protection of informants is among the strongest in the world. Authorities are banned from investigating the source of a leak.
Wikileaks makes the most of this opportunity and exploits Sweden's constitutional laws. The webpage states: "Online submissions are routed via Sweden and Belgium which have first rate journalist-source shield laws. In Sweden, not only does the law provide protection against any official inquiry into journalistsâ(TM) sources, but it allows a source whose identity has been revealed without permission to initiate criminal prosecutions against an unfaithful journalist who has breached his or her promise of confidentiality. "
This is a true reflection of the contents of Sweden's constitutional laws regarding press freedom and freedom of speech. By revealing the identity of a source, Wikileaks could be breaking the law. It would, equally, be a criminal act for a Swedish authority to investigate the leak.
But the office of the Chancellor of Justice, which acts as prosecutor in cases concerning these crimes, says there are some doubts regarding the validity of a Wikileaks' claim.
"To my mind, it is too simple to claim that all Wikileaks sources are totally protected in Sweden," says HÃ¥kan Rustand, deputy to Anna Skarhed, acting Chancellor of Justice.
Wikileaks' promise is only partly valid because the website has no licence to publish material in Sweden. Placing the server in Sweden does not give Wikileaks automatic protection under Swedish law.
"If the constitutional laws are non-applicable, ordinary liability laws take effect. This means a source could be brought to court by a common prosecutor," says HÃ¥kan Rustand.
Swedish citizens who leak information to a foreign publisher without a publishing licence in Sweden could be protected by the constitutional laws of Sweden, but only when the piece of information is handed over to an established media company.
On the other hand, foreign citizens who share information with a licenced Swedish publisher will not face investigation by Swedish authorities, even if foreign authorities ask them to.
"But the question is what Wikileaks is," says HÃ¥kan Rustand, without providing an assessment of the website's status. He continues:
"As this could become a case for the Chancellor of Justice, I don't want to preempt our review."
Anders R Olsson is a writer and journalist, specialising in freedom of speech issues. He makes a similar observation as HÃ¥kan Rustand.
"A website needs a licence in order to be protected by the laws regarding freedom of speech. You can't claim anonymity in the sense of the state being prohibited from investigating sources without the protection of constitutinal law," he says and continues:
"Even when the publisher is protected by constitutional law, the ban on investigating sources isn't watertight. In the case of top secret information that is of great importance to the military, police and prosecutors have a duty to try to find the leak and prosecute the source".
What's your view on Wikileaks' promise that Swedish laws protects its sources?
"I think it is a bit strange that Wikileaks doesn't seem to know the rules.
Wikileaks and spokesperson Julian Assange has not been available for a comment.
Apart from claiming the protection of Swedish law, Wikileaks also claim that Belgian laws protect its sources.
Wikileaks is an organisation that publishes information and documents that authorities, corporations and organisations do not want in the public domain. The most widely spread material is a video that was released in April which shows an American helicopter opening fire on civilians in Iraq in 2007, and the publication in July of more than 90 000 documents on Afghanistan, including US secret service files. Wikileaks' spokesperson is Julian Assange.
Source protection and freedom to inform
Swedish residents have the right to freely gather and share information with the media. This right is protected by constitutional law.
The protection of those who provide the media with information is based on the principle that a single publisher is legally responsible for publishing information.
The publisher is named in the publication licence of the media outlet. Only the publisher may be prosecuted or punished for publishing information. Everyone else has the right to anonymity.
Authorities are not allowed to investigate sources, unless the piece of information is of particular importance to national security or in other ways classified top secret.
Journalists are obliged to protect their sources. I certain cases, however, a court of justice may demand a source to be revealed.
The regulations are laid out in the constitutional law on press freedom (for print media) and the law on freedom of speech (radio, tv and internet).