January 8, 2001

No freedom of speech in Sweden

Author: JT Smith

Mikael Pawlo writes "The Swedish website Flashback is getting back online. The controversial web site is now hosted by the Swede Zenon Panoussis, currently living in the Netherlands.The website has an interesting story. Flashback is a web site, a newsletter, a magazine and an virtual ISP. It's editor in chief and CEO is Jan Axelsson, a Swede well-known for his strong believes in freedom of speech. All business is conducted in the spirit of "freedom of speech - use it or loose it". Everyone is welcome to publish their opinions or host their websites with Flashback, as long as they do not break the laws of Sweden, such as threats, defamation and so forth.

Nevertheless, a Swedish politician, Bjorn Fries, has been trying to shut Flashback down for a long period of time. Fries is a famous nazi-fighter in Sweden and has received several awards for his work. Fries argues that he's beeing threatened by one of the web sites hosted by Flashback. However, he did not try to shut the site down in court. Instead the municipal lawyer of Karlskrona (where Fries is chairman of the municipal executive board) wrote all the mayor Swedish cable and Internet providers, urging them not to sell Internet access to Flashback. This also happened.

All the larger companies denied Flashback access and they denied smaller ISPs backbone access if they would take Axelsson as a customer. Thus Flashback was put offline. Axelsson has sued the major companies for breach of the EC competition law, but such law suits take long time in Sweden and it's a tough case to win.

This has raised interesting questions whether major ISPs should be able to choose their customers and the customers of their ISP customers. Please note that no legal suite has predestined the shutdown of Flashback.

The current location of Flashback.

Index of articles about the incident - most of them in Swedish."

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