The Swedish accountability system has a long tradition. The first rules, from 1900, concerned fairness in publishing. Gradually, the rules were extended, especially in the 1950s and 1960s, when a Press Ombudsman (PO) was established by the press organisations. In 1968, the Association of Swedish Journalists (SJF) decided on a professional code of conduct. The Press Council was established in 1916, originally as a ‘Court of Honour’ for editors and journalists.
Today, three sets of rules form the basis of the media accountability system in Sweden:
- The publicity rules (the rules of good journalistic practice): these rules regulate the fairness of reporting, respect of privacy, the rights of interviewees, the right to reply, the treatment of pictures and so forth. These rules are the oldest part of the code of conduct.
- The rules of professional journalism: these rules deal chiefly with the journalist's professional conduct and concern the integrity of journalists, humiliating assignments, acquisition of material, relations with news sources and so forth. These rules are the code of conduct of the SJF.
- The guidelines of editorial advertising: these cover the relationship between advertising and editorial content. They state that news should be judged by news value, not by advertising value. Advertising must not look like editorial pages. These rules were initiated by The Association of Newspaper Publishers (TU) in 1970.
All the rules are voluntary and initiated by independent organisations, in order to prevent legislation. The rules of good journalistic practice, which are regarded as the most central, are supervised by the Press Council and the Press Ombudsman, and the rules of professional journalism by a special committee appointed by the board of SJF. There is also a special council for co-operation in the field of media accountability.