Unsavoury cartoon ruling sparks debate in Sweden

A Swedish man who translates Japanese Manga comics has been fined for possessing child porn cartoons, sparking a heated debate about censorship. The man was reprimanded by Uppsala district court for downloading 51 drawings of children engaged in sexual acts from the internet.

In the first ruling of its kind in the country, the translator defended himself by saying he retrieved the images in order to keep up to date with the latest developments in Japanese comic book art. The decision to fine the man for possessing child pornography was unanimous, but Judge Nils Palbrant admitted that the resolution had raised a number of contentious questions.

“There’s a clear conflict between freedom of speech on the one hand and general regulations regarding children’s rights on the other,” Palbrant said in an interview with local newspaper Uppsala Nya Tidning. “It was however our view that the protective aspect weighed more heavily when taking into account the intentions of the legislator. The aim of the law, as described in the preliminary work that led to its creation, is not just to protect individual children but children in general.”

Opinion in Sweden is however split over the issue, with tabloid Expressen backing the translator in an editorial on Thursday. “However unpleasant and nasty a work of fiction might be, and whatever one thinks about Japanese porn involving cartoon children, there is actually no victim here. The children in the Uppland man’s Manga comics were not molested since they were characters in a comic,” the article read.

Leif Silbersky, the translator’s lawyer, has lodged a formal appeal against the 30 June ruling and expressed his surprise at the verdict. “It goes against all common sense. These are just drawings; no children have been harmed,” he told Upsala Nya Tidning.

According to YLE, Judge Palbrant took the unusually step of saying that, due to the unprecedented nature of the case; he too would welcome a second opinion from the Court of Appeal.