Rap song was not a threat against a public official in light of the freedom of expression

The case before the Supreme Court pertained primarily to the manner in which freedom of expression aspects are to be considered in the assessment of a prosecution for threatening a public official. The starting point for the examination by the Supreme Court was that the song had been created and published as revenge for a police operation and statements made by the police in connection with the operation according to which this type of performance should not be booked by the event organisers. The Supreme Court makes several statements of principle as to the manner in which cases of this type are to be viewed.

In connection with a concert held by a performing artist together with others, the police carried out a raid during which drugs were seized from the public. In a media interview some days later, the police officer who had been responsible for the operation stated, among other things, that the event organiser should not book this type of performance. The artist reacted to the statement and the raid in which, among other things, one of the performer’s computers had been seized and wrote a rap song entitled ”Då ska hon skjutas”, which translates into “Then she should be shot”. Melodically, the song was based on a well-known birthday tune. The name of the police officer was used in one stanza. The song, which was released on Spotify, was otherwise about something else. The artist was prosecuted for the content of the song for making a threat against a public official directed at a police officer.

The artist was acquitted by the district court but was found guilty by the court of appeal for making a threat against a public official.

With reference to the Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights, the Supreme Court observes that a great deal of latitude must be allowed in the interest of the freedom of expression. The Court points out that lyrics and music presented in a cultural context must be allowed to be provocative, challenging and confrontational, particularly if they may be regarded as a contribution to an ongoing social debate, satirical expression or polemical reply to perceived injustices.

At the same time, the Supreme Court points out that a line is crossed when what is expressed or conveyed constitutes a threat of violence. Furthermore, this is true also of statements made within the framework of, for example, a political debate or a cultural context. In this regard, the constitutionally anchored freedom of expression and protection of the freedom of expression in the European Convention on Human Rights thus raise no bars to criminal liability.

However, the freedom of expression aspects may entail that what may be perceived as a threat of violence by virtue of its wording may instead be regarded as a permissible - even if harsh, provocative or polemical - contribution. According to the Supreme Court, the decisive factor is whether the alleged threat appears to be seriously intended in the context and in the form in which it is presented.

The Supreme Court finds that the circumstances in this case, in the context and in the form in which it was expressed, does not entail that the statements regarding the police in the rap song are to be regarded as a seriously intended threat of violence. Accordingly, the artist was acquitted.

Two justices dissent and make another assessment of the circumstances in the relevant case. They are of the opinion that the artist is to be found guilty of a threat against a public official.

Case no: B 6101-19

Contact persons

Stefan Reimer, Justice

+ 46 8-561 666 10, + 46 767–6116 72



Josefine Wendel, Judge Referee

+46 8-561 666 37