Forsskål symposium celebrates freedom of the press

21 November 2016

This year, the Swedish Freedom of the Press Act turns 250. The 2016 Forsskål Symposium at Uppsala University focuses on the importance and opportunities of the freedom of the press, but also its threat’s and challenges.

The Swedish Freedom of the Press Act was the first document of its kind in the world, and together with the Swedish Fundamental Law on Freedom of Expression it still makes up the foundation of our open, democratic society. The Freedom of the Press Act protects the written word, the right to publish newspapers, journals and books, and the spreading of information without any prior vetting or censorship.

Globalisation and the internet have enabled new ways of spreading information and knowledge, but have also given rise to discussions about remaining oppression in many parts of the world. In many countries, fundamental human rights are limited – a reminder that the basic values of a society cannot be taken for granted. Threats and persecution via social media, changes to journalists’ and researchers’ working conditions, and challenges to how the principle of public access to official documents works, are examples of issues that are relevant also in Sweden.

The Forsskål Symposium 2016
250 years of freedom of the press: Threats, opportunities and historical heritage

This year’s Forsskål lecturer is Hans-Gunnar Axberger, Professor of Constitutional Law at Uppsala University. His lecture is titled “1766 års tryckfrihetsförordning – bara en antikvitet eller ett levande arv?” (“The Freedom of the Press Act of 1766 – just an antiquity or living heritage?) Starting in the Swedish Age of Liberty in the 1700s, he will describe the development of law and how it holds up in today’s ever-changing media landscape.

The Forsskål panel of 2016 is led by Ulrika Knutson (journalist and former chair of Publicistklubben).


  • Lisa Irenius (culture editor, Svenska Dagbladet)
  • Marcin de Kaminski (policy specialist, freedom of expression issues, Sida)
  • Anette Novak (journalist and commissioner of the state enquiry “En mediepolitik för framtiden”, “A media policy for the future”)
  • Carl Gustaf Spangenberg (Senior Lecturer of Legal History at Uppsala University)

When: 24 November, 13:15–16:30 (16:00-16:30 The 2016 Humtank Award ceremony*)
Where: Östgöta Nation, Trädgårdsgatan 15, Uppsala

Free admission and open to the public. No registration required.

Organisers: The Faculty of Law at Uppsala University and Uppsala Forum on Democracy, Peace and Justice.

About Peter Forsskål

Peter Forsskål (1732–1763) was a philosopher, economist, orientalist and botanist. He is counted as one of Linnaeus’s apostles and died in 1763 during a scientific expedition to what is today Jemen. Forsskål has been described as Sweden’s only real enlightenment philosopher. He is best known today for his thesis Tankar om den borgerliga friheten which he published under coup-like circumstances in 1759.

The Forsskål Symposium is an annual event at Uppsala University in memory of Peter Forsskål’s work and ideas, to facilitate a continued discussion of free speech in our time.

More about Peter Forsskål

Uppsala Forum on Democracy, Peace and Justice

*In connection with this year’s Forsskål Symposium, the Humtank think tank will announce the 2016 Humtank award. Humtank seeks to strengthen public outreach and collaboration among humanists. As part of this strive, the Humtank award was founded. It is to be awarded to an academic who in a commendable way has made the importance of the humanities publicly visible.

More about Humtank